Tag Archives: Oliver Kaderbhai

Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World

King’s Head Theatre

Margot Dame

Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 17th July 2019



If allowed to, I think this piece will grow up to match the quality of Macor’s other plays


It’s in the title. And it is fundamentally undeniable, which is probably why writer Claudio Macor has separated the dancer from the dance to focus on the lesser known events of Fonteyn’s life. Commissioned to write the piece for the King’s Head Theatre’s annual ‘Playmill’ festival of new writing, Macor has rightly refused merely to tell us what we already know. Here we see Margot Fonteyn reinventing herself as a cattle rancher, we learn some of the reasons she kept on dancing long after she should have stopped. We get snapshots of her childhood and her relationship with her mother. And at its heart is her marriage to Roberto (Tito) Arias, the serial adulterer and dodgy Panamanian politician.

But at barely an hour long we don’t really feel the pulse of this story. We are, in fact, left wanting it to be massaged into life and given the prospect of a long and healthy future. Even given the limitations of being part of a festival, “Margot, Dame” feels underdeveloped. Thankfully we are aided by a back projection informing us when and where we are in the action as the narrative jumps about chronologically. We have fewer pointers, however, to help us decide whether we are watching a comedy or an earnest piece of drama.

Abigail Moore gives an assured portrayal of the eponymous Fonteyn. An unenviable task but she mixes the imposed affectations of the grand dame with the down to earth girl from Reigate. Neat touches such as the origin of her stage name (“… named after a hairdresser’s on Tottenham Court Road…”) season the exposition with a bit of spice. Fanos Xenofos has more scope for dramatic licence as the husband, ‘Tito’. It was a complicated relationship, and Xenofos’ performance only occasionally hints at the mystique of the man that Fonteyn had to put up with. After a failed coup to oust the President of Panama, Tito escapes and returns to Peru. Margot is arrested for her involvement in her husband’s botched attempt at gun-smuggling. When Tito was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after an assassination attempt, Margot uses up all her savings to care for him – one of the main reasons she continued to dance so late into her life.

The story is not so much sidestepped as danced over lightly. It is a fascinating angle on Fonteyn’s life and one that refreshingly avoids the obvious. But, as if worried that the audience might lose interest, director Robert McWhir and choreographer Robbie O’Reilly have shoehorned flourishes of ballet to cover the scene changes and time shifts, which dilute rather than add flavour.

But one mustn’t lose sight of the purpose of the Playmill Festival at the King’s Head, which is a vital platform for new writing. “Margot, Dame…” has only two performances in which to reveal its essence. As Fonteyn herself famously said; “… the first night is the worst possible time to make a hard and fast criticism: the baby never looks its best on the day it is born…” If allowed to, I think this piece will grow up to match the quality of Macor’s other plays.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Peter Davies


Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World

King’s Head Theatre until 18th July as part of Playmill New Writing Festival


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Striking 12

Union Theatre

Striking 12

Striking 12

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd December 2018


“tells a festive story with a hilarious mix of cheer and cynicism”


It’s New Year’s Eve and Brendan is working late. Dejected and bored, he is in no mood to celebrate but a chance encounter with a girl changes everything. Striking 12 is a warm and funny retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl. Set in modern New York, this production has updated the classic fairy tale with a sweetness that does not lose the touching sadness of the original story.

Declan Bennett and Bronté Barbé do a good job as the titular characters Brendan and the Match Girl. Barbé plays the vulnerable fairy tale Match Girl as well as the modernised one who sells Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps instead of matches. This may seem like a bizarre way to update the story, but it works well to paint a picture of Brendan as an overworked bah-humbug New Yorker. With exposed brick walls, malleable staging and use of vintage lighting, the Union Theatre is also a wonderful space for a show set in New York. The use of matchboxes as tickets and matches on stage was also a great added touch.

Along with the talented Andrew Linnie on piano, Kate Robson-Stuart and Leon Scott brilliantly switch between acting and playing multiple instruments to infuse the story with perfect comedic timing. There are some fantastic numbers, particularly ‘Matches for Sale’ and its reprise in ‘Say What?’ Put together, the songs tell the story of The Little Match Girl, and then self-consciously play with what a modernised version of the story would look like. In doing so, Oliver Kaderbhai’s careful direction blends the tenderness of the fairy tale with modern wit. The show’s real magic is held in the hands of Danielle Kassaraté whose Narrator is effortlessly charismatic, adding some fantastic moments of empathy and humour.

This is a tight performance that strikes the right tone throughout. Without falling into the trap of irritating unwarranted optimism that so often taints musicals at this time of year, Striking 12 tells a festive story with a hilarious mix of cheer and cynicism. It will end the year with a lovely, simple message: that sharing some sincere festive spirit can make us less sad, and failing that, there’s SAD lamps.


Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic

Photography by Tom Grace


Striking 12

Union Theatre until 23rd December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Heartbreak House | ★★★★ | January 2018
Carmen 1808 | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | March 2018
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com