Tag Archives: Pamela Raith

Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone


Alexandra Palace Theatre

BUGSY MALONE at the Alexandra Palace Theatre


Bugsy Malone

“Drew McOnie’s musical staging is simply stunning”


Down in the back alleyways of Prohibition era New York City, where shadows lurk beneath the stark, black fire escapes, lies Fat Sam’s Speakeasy. You wouldn’t know it’s there; except that for two hours each night its doors burst open to the lucky few (hundred) who are assembled in the Alexandra Palace Theatre’s beautifully decaying auditorium. No password is needed. Just a willingness to embrace your inner child and dive headlong into a glorious world of escapism. A world of song and dance belies the average age of the performers. While we are busy recapturing our youth, they are stealing the show, grabbing grown-up talent for themselves, and making the stage their own.

Like Alan Parker’s film on which the musical is based, the mobsters and molls the bootleggers and showgirls are played by nine-to-fifteen-year-olds. An unusual idea which, on paper, shouldn’t really work. But Parker’s film did – and so does Sean Holmes’ current revival. The precocious and wild energy is harnessed by sky-high production values, slick stagecraft and some of the best choreography to be seen in a long while. Drew McOnie’s musical staging is simply stunning.

The plot might be wafer thin, but it is filled with big characters. Fat Sam’s gang are under attack from rivals led by Dandy Dan, so Sam obviously wants to fight back. Enlisting Bugsy Malone to do his dirty work is not his wisest decision. Bugsy has fallen for the singer, Blousey Brown, and all he wants to do is whisk her off to Hollywood. Much ‘splurging’ ensues, from machine guns full of custard.

Albie Snelson, as Fat Slam, sets up the story and introduces us to the characters. In fine form, Snelson breaks the fourth wall with a keen sense of comic timing and delivery. Gabriel Payne is, for the most part, comfortable with the wisecracks and cheeky charm that define Bugsy’s character. Only occasionally do we get the sense that older words are put into younger mouths. Payne’s sense of showmanship, however, is flawless. Love interest Blousey is given commanding maturity by Mia Lakha, oozing star quality when under the spotlight in her solo numbers; ‘I’m Feeling Fine’ and ‘Ordinary Fool’. The quality of the singing is beyond its years. Similarly, Jasmine Sakyiama’s sultry songstress Tallulah lights up the stage, especially when opening Act Two with her signature tune ‘My Name Is Tallulah’. With a slightly slimmer script than Fat Sam, Desmond Cole’s rival gangster, Dandy Dan, certainly pulls as many punches. And special mention must go to Aidan Oti as Fizzy – Fat Slam’s caretaker and wannabee singer. Overlooked by his boss, but definitely not by the audience who are captivated by Oti’s cheeky charming charisma. And, boy, can he move!

The marginally older ensemble brings the whole show together. Not a step was put out of place during the demanding routines and the joy that each performer brought to their role shot straight to our hearts with exhilarating accuracy. The show never dips, even during the scene changes which are choreographed into the action, seamlessly shapeshifting the locations. Designer Jon Bausor, complemented by Philip Gladwell’s lighting, are the unseen alchemists that help transform the piece into pure gold.

It isn’t music heavy. In fact, the balance of dialogue, slapstick, humour and musical numbers is pretty good. But Paul Williams’ compositions stand out. The band, led by Musical Director Connagh Tonkinson, is tucked away at floor level but fills the cavernous auditorium. Each number sounds like a hit. By the time we reach the finale the audience are quite rightly on their feet. Feet that are young and old and all ages in between. This show, that has everything, is for everyone.


Reviewed on 7th December 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith




Recent Five Star Shows:


Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | September 2022
Rehab the Musical | ★★★★★ | Playground Theatre | September 2022
Hofesh Shecter: Contemporary Dance 2 | ★★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | October 2022
The Solid Life Of Sugar Water | ★★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2022
La Clique | ★★★★★ | Christmas in Leicester Square | November 2022
Ghosted – Another F**king Christmas Carol | ★★★★★ | The Other Palace | December 2022

Click here to read all our latest reviews


Wickies: The Vanishing Men Of Eilean Mor


Park Theatre




“The strength of this production sits with its creatives and the actors, who wrestled as best they could with a script that needs some serious trimming”


“A lighthouse is a symbol of man’s good intentions” the experienced James Ducat (Ewan Stewart) tells wet-behind-the-ears keeper Thomas Marshall (Jamie Quinn) as he comes ashore to help man remote Eilean Mor. The lighthouse sets the scene for this eerie tale of three keepers, or wickies, who disappear from Flannan Isles in apparently mysterious circumstances.

In addition to the central narrative, the play is packed with stories about lighthouse keepers going mad with isolation and creepy bodies flailing in the wind. It’s a fertile setting for playwright (Paul Morrissey) to wring a story from.

But it’s not all windswept despair. The script is woven together with joyous and melancholy sea shanties sung acapella by the actors, which serves to highlight the men’s isolation marooned in this distant place. The direction (Shilpa T-Hyland) makes use of the whole stage – at times the actors emerge from the audience, while a rickety ladder is shimmied up and down to give an impression of height (the lighthouse is very tall, we’re reminded frequently).

The set design ( Zoe Hurwitz), lighting design (Bethany Gupwell) and sound design (Nik Paget-Tomlinson) all deserve special mention. They work together to create a true sense of isolation and claustrophobia. In particular lighting designer Bethany Gupwell’s role in a play where the keeper’s one goal is to ‘keep the light on’ at all times, is a central one. Lighting decisions are clever – at one point the theatre is cast into complete darkness while Thomas Marshall (Jamie Quinn) carries a lantern across the stage that casts a shaky beam of light to make the audience feel like ships tossed around on a stormy sea.

The strength of this production sits with its creatives and the actors, who wrestled as best they could with a script that needs some serious trimming.

The audience is told the same information again and again, just by different people. Pace is slow. It could do well with being cut to 90 minutes and losing the interval.

There’s an entire scene where Donald MacArthur and Thomas Marshall sit around a table discussing why the senior keeper left his family to work on the lighthouse, but we’d just been told why moments before. Thomas Marshall – “you ask a lot of questions, don’t you?” – was indeed, always asking questions, and often the same ones, repeatedly. Why had the men chosen to work in such remote places? Why did they leave their family?

The play’s intentions are good. There’s humour in spades – Graeme Dalling delivers some excellent one-liners, and he performs his role as a man metaphorically and literally lost at sea with energy and melancholy passion. But there’s a sense that this play could do with more showing and less telling. I wanted to see the actions they described – rather than hearing the inspector’s descriptions of what he thought had happened to the men, I wanted to see the actors act.

Several questions remain unanswered. The predominant one is why this play now? Why this play here, at the Park Theatre? But perhaps that doesn’t matter to all but the most diehard theatre fan. Afterall, it can feel at times that theatre has become something to clench your stomach ahead of and check your mental constitution after, and Wickies, other than a few ghost stories, doesn’t require that.

Inspection of the website post-show reveals that the play is partnering with StrongMen, a charity that helps men through bereavement. And perhaps that’s the only loose theme that comes through – a symbol of man’s enduring isolation in a world that’s not built for them. At its heart, this is just a good yarn, a ghost story threaded with reality. If you want to see something this season that’s not a show about Christmas, then this is a fine place to while away an evening.



Reviewed on 5th December 2022

by Eleanor Ross

Photography by Pamela Raith




Previously reviewed at this venue:


Flushed | ★★★★ | October 2021
Abigail’s Party | ★★★★ | November 2021
Little Women | ★★★★ | November 2021
Cratchit | ★★★ | December 2021
Julie Madly Deeply | ★★★★ | December 2021
Another America | ★★★ | April 2022
The End of the Night | ★★ | May 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022


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