Tag Archives: Robert Jones

Fiddler on the Roof

Playhouse Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

Playhouse Theatre

Reviewed – 28th March 2019



“despite the epic themes, the staging of this production lends real intimacy to a thousand seat venue”


Almost before Trevor Nunn’s “Fiddler on the Roof” opened last December at the Menier Chocolate Factory, it had ‘West End Transfer’ stamped all over it. Tickets were almost impossible to come by during its four-month run, but those disappointed will do well to move fast to catch its inevitable, yet richly deserved relocation to the Playhouse Theatre. The shift to the larger space has lost none of the intimacy and passion: there is always the fear of over-projection, but the subtlety and attention to detail of this production is beautifully intact, gently immersing the audience into the small Russian village of Anatevka in 1905.

Designer Robert Jones’ set – a ramshackle Jewish shtetl – spills out into the auditorium; the smokey darkness of the crooked wooden buildings backed by a foreboding bank of bare woodland, yet overlain with folk-tale lanterns and Tim Lutkin’s time-shifting lighting that conjures both the chilly light of an uncertain dawn with heart-warming twilight. A true reflection of the town folk’s stoicism in the face of their impending resettlement.

Based on the stories of one of the most famous and beloved of all Jewish writers; Sholem Aleichem, the story centres on Tevye, a poor Jewish dairyman, forever questioning ‘Tradition’, and the mysterious ways in which God moves. A patriarchal figure, his refusal to bend to the changing times is slowly eroded by the strong-willed actions of his daughters, who rebel against the custom of arranged marriage and choose to marry for love. Although he never quite lets go, Tevye’s grip on his heritage is increasingly fragile. Andy Nyman gives a stunningly natural and captivating performance of this central role. Whilst making light of his plight with precision-timed quips and asides, we are also continuously aware of his fear of the threat of exile and, more poignantly, his love for his wife and daughters.

Judy Kuhn, as his wife Golde, is the perfect complement that no Matchmaker could cap. Their onstage chemistry evokes the hard-won intimacy built from the ups and downs of a twenty-five-year marriage; culminating in the tender self-realisation of their duet “Do You Love Me?”. In fact, the entire company do wonderful justice to Jerry Bock’s sumptuous score, with a sensitive, but never sentimental, interpretation of Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics. Molly Osbourne, Harriet Bunton and Nicola Brown as the daughters Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava respectively give heartfelt performances, accentuating the satire often missed in “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”. The choral numbers are sung by the company quite beautifully, an inevitable highlight of which is the achingly angelic “Sunrise, Sunset”.

But beneath this musical portrait of family and community is the solemn undercurrent of violence, anti-Semitism and persecution; sadly still all too pertinent. Matt Cole’s choreography, paying homage to Jerome Robbins’ original, shows how rapidly high spirits can descend into oppressed chaos, particularly when a vodka-soaked wedding dance is broken by the arrival of a vicious tsarist pogrom at the close of the first act. A threat that is taken to its tragic conclusion in the final scenes.

The human touch easily sits alongside the disturbing historical commentary. Yet, despite the epic themes, the staging of this production lends real intimacy to a thousand seat venue, and by avoiding the temptation to overplay to the rafters the emotional impact touches the heart with much more force. Its message is clear; but what is equally clear is that this is quite simply a triumph of a show. Musical theatre at its best. Matchless.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson


Playhouse Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof

Playhouse Theatre until 28th September


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | Union Theatre | February 2019
Not Quite | ★★★ | Hen & Chickens Theatre | February 2019
Rip It Up – The 60s | ★★★ | Garrick Theatre | February 2019
The Grand Expedition | ★★★★★ | Secret Location | February 2019
Carl’s Story | ★★★★ | Tabard Theatre | March 2019
Pain(t) | ★★★★ | Time and Leisure Studio | March 2019
The Project | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2019


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


Agnes Colander: An Attempt at Life

Jermyn Street Theatre

Agnes Colander

Agnes Colander: An Attempt at Life

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2019



“aesthetically seductive with some captivating acting and thought-provoking perceptions”


In an intimate and eloquent production at the Jermyn Street Theatre, an accomplished ensemble of actors and creatives join together to bring to life a long-neglected work by Edwardian playwright, Harley Granville Barker. Using one of his list of possible subtitles, ‘Agnes Colander: An Attempt at Life’, he broaches the sensitive issue of women’s lack of freedom in that era but, more delicately, examines how relationships change when they become sexual. Married at seventeen, Agnes has left an unhappy, respectable marriage to become an artist. When, three years later, her husband orders her home, she moves to France with Otto, a passionate, Danish painter, while being pursued by the smitten Alec.

These three men reflect her emotional struggle and the play follows the considerations and deliberations of a woman whose strength and conviction make her want to shape her own destiny. However, with the examples of writing by Shaw, Wilde and Ibsen freshly censored, he knew that a play which questioned the code of acceptable female behaviour in that society would never be approved by the likes of Lord Chamberlain, so it lay tucked away, unrevised and unperformed, until its recent discovery by Richard Nelson.

This early piece is entirely conversational, consisting of a series of dialogues and sometimes missing a link or background, but Trevor Nunn directs a distinguished cast, engaging our empathy with the characters on a personal level and opening our thoughts on whether it is possible to love with body and soul. Naomi Frederick’s alluring performance as Agnes draws us into her conflicting complexity of thoughts, feelings and ideals and her deeply sincere nature. The ardent Otto is played with increasing coarseness, creating a contrast to Harry Lister Smith’s nuanced, if timorous, portrayal of young and besotted, yet determined, Alec. Emmeline Marjoribanks re-establishes the norms of female conduct in an appealing interpretation by Sally Scott, not without desires but quick to cover them up.

Robert Jones’ set design is an elegant backdrop to his period costumes and detailed props which further combine with the actors’ movements and sublime tones and hues of the lighting (Paul Pyant) to conjure up a semblance of continuous oil paintings. Although this is not a perfectly constructed drama – a little stilted due to the linear form and an ending which is rather too neatly tied up – it is an enjoyable and involving portrait of Agnes. Well-suited to the small stage it is aesthetically seductive with some captivating acting and thought-provoking perceptions.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Robert Workman


Agnes Colander: An Attempt at Life

Jermyn Street Theatre until 16th March


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Woman Before a Glass | ★★★★ | January 2018
Mad as Hell | ★★★ | February 2018
The Dog Beneath the Skin | ★★★ | March 2018
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019


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