Tag Archives: Owen Jenkins



Southwark Playhouse



Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 28th November 2019



“It’s Wren’s warm and engaging delivery that makes this so delightful to observe”


What would you do if your older brother was the lead singer of one of the world’s biggest rock bands? Ride on their name, or strive to carve out your own career, purely on the merit of your own talent? Well, Nicola Wren faced such a dilemma. In an entertaining divulgence into her life, Wren ‘writes what she knows’ into a frank autobiographical one woman show that is tantalising.

Nicola was an accident. A few too many sherries on Christmas Day type of accident, where nine months later she was welcomed unexpectedly into the Martin household. The youngest of four other offspring, she was constantly playing catch up. Each of her siblings had found their ‘thing’ and it wasn’t until Nicola was on stage as Rabbit No.3 in her local village play that she knew she had found her calling. She was going to be an actor. No, a superstar. Everyone said so. Although, there was one thing that kept getting in the way. Her brother was the lead singer of this band called Coldplay and for some reason he kept getting all this attention… Through the ups and downs of crushed dreams and little triumphs, Nicola faces major reality checks and time to question her purpose in life.

Wren may have been driven to the point of changing her surname to stop the questions about Chris Martin, but this isn’t a play just about begrudging a celebrity brother’s fame. Instead, all of Nicola’s siblings feature as she shifts the narrative to the more universal and relatable theme of how it feels being the youngest, always having to prove themselves.

There’s plenty of in-jokes for the fellow struggling performers or theatre luvvies in the audience, which may go over the heads of the uninitiated, but this shouldn’t lessen any of the enjoyment or laughs through this show. Wren is as adept with physical comedy as she is finding the moments of thoughtful reflection and poignancy.

The set (Cara Evans) is reminiscent of what an eight-year old dreaming of fame would want: Flashing lights and tinsel curtains a la Saturday night TV game shows. A single clothes rail gives Nicola relished moments to put on costumes and reminisce over her previous ‘stellar’ acting roles, which sounds more pretentious than it turns out to be. Fortunately. That aside, the stage is fairly barren, giving space for Nicola’s brazen persona to bounce around.

The style of a show within a show has been used countless times by many solo performers, yet Wren does it solidly well, finding a way of making it her own and being completely self-aware about it. Other solo show staples like audience participation slip their way in, but are executed in an unobtrusive and natural manner.

Nicola is an extremely watchable entity. Full of charismatic charm, she wins you over and makes it impossible to dislike. Her life story is not hard-hitting or gritty, her predicaments hardly challenging, but it’s Wren’s warm and engaging delivery that makes this so delightful to observe.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Karla Gowlett



Southwark Playhouse until 21st December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Other People’s Money | ★★★ | April 2019
Oneness | ★★★ | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | June 2019
Fiver | ★★★★ | July 2019
Dogfight | ★★★★ | August 2019
Once On This Island | ★★★ | August 2019
Preludes | ★★★★ | September 2019
Islander | ★★★★★ | October 2019


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One Duck Down – 5 Stars

One Duck Down

One Duck Down

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 26th October 2018


“The sheer silliness and the underlying message are perfectly balanced”


Having taught seagulls to sing the national anthem, counted all the stones on the beach and memorised the phonebook, Billy, a lovestruck seventeen-year-old is yet to impress his unrequited crush, Cecilia Sourbottom. When challenged to collect 7000 rubber ducks that have accidentally been plunged into the ocean, Billy sets sail on a worldwide voyage to win over his love.

Cue a swashbuckling adventure, jampacked with clowning, musical numbers and physical theatre. Taking inspiration from a real life event in 1992, FacePlant Theatre deliver a strong message about pollution, with a light-hearted and accessible approach for young audiences. The original writing, packed with cheeky puns and witty pop culture references, makes it impossible for the whole family not to enjoy.

The cast demonstrate excellent storytelling skills and detailed characterisation in all of their roles. Jack Dorning as Billy delivers an energetic and captivating performance, which creates anticipation for each encounter on his journey. The multi-role performances of Alice Bounce, Maxwell Tyler and Lydia Hourihan are larger than life and showcase excellent voice adaptation. Among the amusing characters, Scuzzy the brummie rocker polar bear and Alberto the opera-singing Albatross are highlights.

The sheer silliness and the underlying message are perfectly balanced. The actors know when to slow the pace to emphasise an important point and when to pick up the momentum with slick transitions, demonstrating their skill and control throughout. The moment Billy recovers his plastic bottle on the debris island is particularly clear and effective. The musical numbers add to the fun and feature some lovely harmonies. The audience may be encouraged to sing along more with greater invitation and interactions from the cast members.

Lily Faith Knight’s design is ingenious and marries well with the make-believe story. Knight is able to get maximum use and effect out of simple props and costumes which magically come to life, featuring amongst other things, glove puppet crabs, a tin bath turned boat and three cardboard pieces that form a whale. Despite the minimalist set design, the attention to detail and the empathetic delivery of the actors, convey the humour of the writing extremely well.

Although the ending feels slightly rushed, the tale comes full circle to charmingly conclude Billy’s epic adventure. This production is imaginative and slightly quackers, but well worth a watch.


Reviewed by Beth Partington

Photography courtesy FacePlant Theatre


One Duck Down

Pleasance Theatre until 28th October



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