Tag Archives: Rachael Ryan



Upstairs at the Gatehouse

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse


“a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter”

The cosy pub venue is transformed by set designer Rachael Ryan into an artist’s studio/kitchen with dark wood shelves, stylishly chaotic pots and a potter’s wheel.

A live band of guitar, violin, double bass and piano sit snugly in the corner.

A woman enters, draped in a huge knitted cardigan, and linen trousers (costume also by Rachael Ryan). She is the picture of a chicly messy artist. With a thick French accent she begins to sing. I’ll admit, I’m a little doubtful.

But by the end of the first song Rosalind Ford has us in the palm of her hand.

The story is poignant, and true. The play follows the life story of Marie-Berthe Cazin, an early 20th century French ceramicist, whose work was often misattributed to the men in her life.

The shape of the piece is well crafted by writer Rebecca Simmonds, beginning with Marie waiting for the arrival of her childhood friend, acclaimed painter Henrietta Tirman, and then flashing back to tell the story of their friendship and Marie’s life.

The lyrics, written by Simmonds, and Jack Miles, are occasionally a little neat. However, the strength of Miles’ music transports the audience and give the songs an incredible emotive power.

Crucially however, Rosalind Ford as Marie is sublime. She is warm and full of life, dashing about the stage with cheerful mischief, assisted by clever direction from Grace Taylor. Her passion is overt – the song about discovering her love of ceramics is downright sexy. She is a captivating performer, who holds our attention right through this one woman musical.

This is the story of one female artist, but likely the story of many. It explores creativity, jealousy and the purpose of artistic talent. But it does so lightly, and with charm, making it a hugely enjoyable and upbeat production, despite the moving subject matter.

IN CLAY at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed on 15th March 2024

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Felix Mosse



Previously reviewed at this venue:

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD | ★★★ | February 2024
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN | ★★ | December 2023
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER TULIP | ★★ | November 2022
FOREVER PLAID | ★★★★ | June 2021



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The Hope Theatre

THE HOUSE OF YES at The Hope Theatre


The House of Yes


“You’re guaranteed to feel sickened and hysterically entertained at the same time.”


Director Mathew Parker clearly has a penchant for tales that are dark and disturbing. Having had previous success with other Hope Theatre in-house productions, Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, The Lesson and Lovesong of The Electric Bear, they all have a similar theme of sinister unsettlement to them. Parker undisputedly has a knack for the genre of black comedy/thriller and brings his expertise to this latest show. The House of Yes is deliciously uncomfortable yet devilishly funny. A rare outing of Wendy Macleod’s under-the-radar 90’s hit play and film, this is a thrilling revival, losing none of its shock value or humour.

It’s Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. A hurricane is sweeping through the capital, but it’s not just the weather that’s blowing up a storm. The Pascal family, of upper-class, WASP-ish pedigree, who live in a time warp since the Kennedy assassination, are feverishly awaiting the arrival of the prodigal son, Marty (Fergus Leathem). None is as excited for his return as his unstable twin sister Jackie-O (Colette Eaton). However the presence of Marty’s fiancee, Lesly (Kaya Bucholc), there to meet the family, comes as somewhat of a surprise. The obsessive Jackie is not best pleased, younger brother Anthony (Bart Lambert) is infatuated, and Mother Pascal (Gill King) is judging from the shadows as she watches on. In a series of twisted events and manipulations, the night soon becomes a Thanksgiving no one will forget.

The cast, on a whole, do a marvellous job at giving heightened performances that never fall into being camp and melodramatic, which could so easily occur with Macleod’s writing. Eaton as Jackie-O teases you with her fragility, never knowing when she might do something drastic, whilst Lambert’s oddball physicality and leering looks as Anthony are decidedly creepy and comical all-in-one.

The studio space is decked out by designer Rachael Ryan with gold drapes, and gilded frames, to give a nod to the cavernous, elaborate home of the Pascals, yet uses the intimate environment of the theatre, full of shadowy little corners, to heighten the gothic, haunted house aesthetic.

With an Absurdist veneer and Noël Coward-like sensibility, The House of Yes gives an unconventional take on theatrical commonalities, creating its own Frankenstein mish-mash of genres. The subtext hints to deeper messages on the themes of family politics, and the American class system, but never lets this interfere with the stylised exterior. Instead it is just tantalisingly bubbling under the surface. Regardless of being nearly 30 years old, this play still feels rather daring, even if not so relevant to today. You’re guaranteed to feel sickened and hysterically entertained at the same time.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Reviewed – 10th October 2019

Photography by lhphotoshots


The House of Yes

Hope Theatre until 26th October


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019
Getting Over Everest | ★★★ | April 2019
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Uncle Vanya | ★★★★ | April 2019
True Colours | ★★★★ | May 2019
Cuttings | ★★★½ | June 2019
The Censor | ★★ | June 2019
River In The Sky | ★★★ | August 2019
Call Me Fury | ★★★ | September 2019
It’s A Playception | ★★★★ | September 2019


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