Tag Archives: Paul Carroll




Southwark Playhouse

STRIKE! at the Southwark Playhouse



“There are more laughs than might be expected balanced with a poignancy that brought some of this audience close to tears”


Ardent Theatre Company presents the story, written by Tracy Ryan, of nine Irish shopgirls and one shop boy who after refusing to handle South African goods embark on nearly three years of strike action which culminates in a landmark ruling from the Irish parliament.

The set is effectively simple (Designer Libby Watson): a set of double doors in front of which a picket line will be formed for much of the action. The name of the Dublin store Dunnes is spelt out in coloured lights. A monochrome outline of what will become South Africa’s national flag is painted out on the floor.

The story starts within the store itself and a group of high-spirited shop girls are preparing to start work, changing their clothes into the regulation shop uniform. One of them, Mary Manning (Chloe O’Reilly) is about to change their lives forever when following an edict from their Union, she refuses to handle a South African grapefruit. She is duly suspended by the shop management and a walk out in solidarity from all the shopgirls ensues.

From time to time, a narrator tells us where we are. Karen (Jessica Regan) ably takes the brunt of this task but the role is nicely shared around other characters. There are two stories being told here. Firstly, that of the camaraderie and resilience of the striking shop-workers and then that of the bigger picture, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Amidst much light-heartedness, a dignity is provided with the arrival of Nimrod Sejake (Mensah Bediako), a South African exile of twenty years and former prison mate of Nelson Mandela. From him the shop-workers (and the audience) learn of the horrors of the apartheid regime and why the strike really matters.

As the story progresses, we learn small bits about each of the strikers in turn. Much amusing repartee forms around the effervescent Liz (Anne O’Riordan); Vonnie (Doireann May White) is in danger of losing her house; Tommy (Adam Isla O’Brien) is beaten up by the Garda in a brilliantly danced solo scene with effective blood red spotlighting (Lighting Designer Jamie Platt). Versatile Paul Carroll takes up the double roles of sleazy tie-fiddling shop manager Paul and Union Leader Brendan with just the change of a sweater and a restyling of his hair.

But this is predominantly an ensemble piece and the slick movement of the group, directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, is excellent and the sharing of dialogue fluent. Small set pieces within the narrative provide dramatic variety. The ensemble don headscarves to become a group of angry mothers, sport plastic bags and umbrellas for a scene in the rain, sing a beautifully performed rendition of trade union folk classic Which Side Are You On?

There is much to be enjoyed here in a non-stop ninety minutes. There are more laughs than might be expected balanced with a poignancy that brought some of this audience close to tears. The tale is well-presented, brilliantly performed, and, at the same time, both genuinely moving and entertaining.



Reviewed on 17th April 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Mark Douet



Previously reviewed at Southwark Playhouse:


The Tragedy Of Macbeth | ★★★★ | March 2023
Smoke | ★★ | February 2023
The Walworth Farce | ★★★ | February 2023
Hamlet | ★★★ | January 2023
Who’s Holiday! | ★★★ | December 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022
The Prince | ★★★ | September 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022
The Lion | ★★★ | May 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Review of Outlaws to In-laws – 4 Stars


Outlaws to In-laws

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 31st August 2017





“it has it’s fair share of sequins, cutting remarks, and tight white underwear!”



If I’m honest – I didn’t feel great about going to the theatre this evening. After a hectic (and fun!) extra long weekend, today was a lazy day to recover before work tomorrow. I fancied climbing into PJs and selecting a spot on the sofa rather than climbing into the car and searching for a place to park!

So I gave myself a good talking to. Being a no-show is never an option and only once in my life have I left at an interval because the play was so awful (not naming and shaming here!). So I ate an early meal and braved the drive across the Isle of Dogs to Islington.

I know the Kings Head Pub theatre well and am happy that their almost 50 successful years are to be rewarded with a move to ‘better’ premises – but I will miss their current venue when they go.

Thanks to the usual London traffic I pretty much skidded to a halt in the last legal spot by the pub and threw myself into the auditorium as the lights dimmed! And that was pretty much the pace set for the evening …

‘Outlaws to In-laws’ is two hours long (including the interval) and tackles a decade about every 15 minutes. It takes the audience through the struggles and hopes, dreams and joys of gay men from a time when being themselves was unlawful to present day.

Each scene is set with a contemporary event: the Queen’s coronation, Police arrests of the sixties, Skinhead violence of the seventies and the bombing of the Tory conference in the eighties as well as charting the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales (appropriately on the 20th anniversary), and referencing the rise in dating websites for the turn of the 21st century. Through each decade though, many of the challenges and choices remained the same for the characters even as society slowly altered.

Drug culture, whether pill or pint or pot, was intertwined in the passing of time. Alongside this, the devastating arrival of HIV and AIDS, initially seen as a death sentence within the gay community, showing it as now a far more manageable condition.

We are all aware that intolerance, bias, hate, ignorance and violence has not yet disappeared from society but it was heartening to be reminded we have all come a long way in the right direction. The production ends more cheerfully and hopefully with a (possibly) ‘happy ever after’ moment in 2017, at the first gay wedding in a church.


Each decade has been written by a different playwright but a narrative weaves it’s way through them all beautifully with hinted at links between each tale. The cast (Myles Devontè, Paul Carroll, Alex Marlow, Elliot Balchin, Jack Hence and Michael Duke) were wonderful, switching between roles and eras with seamless perfection.

Despite what may sound like a history lesson of gay life, be reassured it has it’s fair share of sequins, cutting remarks, and tight white underwear! The scripts are littered with laugh out loud moments, often used to offset a more emotional moment, without lessening the point. The audience appreciated it all, giggling in anticipation with a few belly laughs thrown in.


Queer Festival

As the opener to the Queer Festival ’17, Outlaws to In-laws is a fantastic play that deserves, and needs, to be seen by everyone.



Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Production Photography by Paul Dyke



is at The King’s Head Theatre until 23rd September




Click here to read more about the King’s Head Theatre’s exciting new venue


Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com