Tag Archives: Rosalind Ford



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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Gin Craze

Gin Craze!


Royal & Derngate

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 21st July 2021



“The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping”


This new musical – book and lyrics by April de Angelis, music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers – brings to life William Hogarth’s shocking 1751 etching ‘Gin Lane’ portraying grotesque caricatures of people suffering from the Gin Craze that was rife in the early part of the eighteenth century. As the curtain rises, we meet a number of these ladies under the influence who sing, dance, and extol the virtues of their favourite tipple. A pawn broker’s sign hangs close to the stage, the same sign as in Hogarth’s print.

The set (designed by Hayley Grindle) is built on two levels and reinforces a view of the class divide with the wealthy Fielding family and a semi-sozzled Queen Caroline appearing on the upper level whilst the gin ladies are firmly rooted on the ground and at the bottom of society. Through the shadows of wooden beams and hanging ropes, we can see various musical instruments: harpsichord, violin, cello, double bass, guitar, timpani. Each member of the eight strong ensemble takes their turn at becoming the band. Plus the ever-present MD Tamara Saringer at the keys.

For much of the time we could describe this as a folk musical. The singing is gentle and refined, the lyrics ballad-like in form, and the duets between the two main leads contain excellent close folk harmonies. The arrangement of the songs is most striking particularly those making use of violin and cello underlay.

The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping. “Gin Dive” is the standout song that reappears close to the end in a poignant unaccompanied close harmony version. “It’s the Law” becomes a good old cockney knees-up with comedy trombone. Many of the scenes can be described as bawdy – and are especially enjoyed because of that – at times they are out-and-out plain rude.

The plot – or the message of the show, perhaps – is summed up with the song title, “What does a woman have to do to get a better life?”. We follow the journey of Mary (Aruhan Galieva) who whilst working as a servant is knocked up by the visiting priest, kicked out into the street, tricked into giving away her baby, and narrowly avoids rape and prostitution by setting up as a gin hawker. We learn that life for a woman is not a bed of roses. But then, Mary befriends Lydia (Paksie Vernon), her saving grace.

Director Michael Oakley produces the most spirited scenes when the gin women appear on stage together. If their individual characters do appear on the caricature side of sincere then we can allow that they may have been first based upon a cartoon. But, in the midst of tragedy, despite the best efforts of this hard-working cast, there is little tension to be felt and we remain unmoved. Particularly, much of the momentum is lost after the interval as attention turns away from the rumbustious Gin Lane into the genteel home of the foppish Henry Fielding (Alex Mugnaioni) and his do-gooder sister Sarah (Rachel Winters).

April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers have created a most fascinating feminist – and musical – response to an interesting period of English history which reflects well on Hogarth’s masterpiece that initially inspired the idea.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz


Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre  until 31st July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021


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