Tag Archives: Shakeel Kimotho

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre


La Cage Aux Folles

“Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you”


We live in an age where the word ‘gender’ can spark hot debate and a furious character count on people’s twitter (sorry – ‘x’) feed. Indeed, gender discourse has changed greatly since “La Cage Aux Folles” opened on Broadway four decades ago, at the time breaking many barriers by becoming the first Broadway musical centred on a same sex relationship. So much so that Tim Sheader’s current staging lays itself open to accusations of being dated. And yet, the production rebuffs all of that and rises way above it. There is no question of discussion, or of dissecting its relevance and resonance today. It is simply a celebration. One that is bursting with pure joy and spectacle – full of hope and other sentiments that belong to the human heart irrespective of the rhythm it beats to.

From the overture to the finale, we are drawn into the world of these larger-than-life characters. We are told from the off, by the deliciously diverse and garish troupe of ‘Cagelles’, that “what we are is an illusion”. Illusion or not, they are magical. As is every other aspect of this authentic, feel-good show that, deep down, honours old fashioned and revered values of loyalty, family, solidarity and acceptance. It is only in retrospect that this analysis becomes clear – at the time we are just swept along by the warm tide of music and dance.

Set in 1970s St Tropez, it is more ‘Prom, Prom, Prom!’ than French Riviera. Colin Richmond’s eye-catching set captures a fading grandeur that stands proud against the evening backdrop but when you get up close you see the peeling walls and mildew, reflecting the by-gone era and authenticity that refuses to be glossed over. Pan out again and Stephen Mear’s choreography dazzles and blinds you. The ensemble is ever present, watching from the wings; smoking, laughing, winking or yawning. But when they emerge and take centre stage their dance moves are fearless, faultless and simply stunning.


“The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act”


Jerry Herman’s score is at once recognisable and stylishly fresh. The intellect isn’t overburdened, but the passion and romance are loud and clear. As the first act closes, we almost feel like we have reached the grand finale as Albin (Carl Mullaney) delivers a searing, defiant and heartfelt “I Am What I Am”. Rejection has never been portrayed with such authenticity.

Albin’s partner Georges (Billy Carter) hosts the ‘Cage Aux Folles’ nightclub where Albin headlines as his alter ego ‘Zaza’. Along with George’s son Jean-Michel (Ben Culleton) from a brief dalliance with the now absent biological mother, they form the most unconventional conventional family unit imaginable; supplemented by in-house maid/butler Jacob (a show-stealing, mesmerising, gender-fluid Shakeel Kimotho). Loyalties are stretched to breaking point when Jean-Michel announces his engagement to Anne Dindon (Sophie Pourret). Her father is head of the ‘Tradition, Family and Morality Party’, whose goal is to shut down the local drag clubs, of which George’s is the flagship. Albin is persuaded to absent himself for the upcoming visit of Anne’s parents, the consequences of which inform the hilarious and farcical second act.

The laughter and the pathos are continually battling to steal the limelight, but they end up in a glorious double act. The chorus line moves as one, yet each member’s individuality shines through. Although the plotline is a touch on the thin side, it is fleshed out by Harvey Fierstein’s witty script and, of course, Herman’s music and lyrics. But what really brings the house down is the talent on display, the presentation, and the sheer flamboyance of the performances – all of whom deserve mention. There is no roof at the open-air theatre, but by curtain call there wouldn’t have been anyway: the standing ovation raises it way out of sight.


LA CAGE AUX FOLLES at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed on 11th August 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Robin Hood: The Legend. Re-Written | ★★ | June 2023
Once On This Island | ★★★★ | May 2023
Legally Blonde | ★★★ | May 2022
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★½ | June 2021

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

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Round Chapel


Round Chapel, Hackney

Reviewed – 17th August 2021



“like earlier work, delights in pushing boundaries”


RUNE, Alastair White’s latest “fashion opera”, has just premiered as part of the Tête à Tête’s 2021 feast of contemporary, experimental operas. And as we navigate this second year of socially distanced performances during the COVID pandemic, Tête à Tête have also ensured that this performance can be viewed at a later date. If you missed last night’s live performance at the Round Chapel in Hackney—you will have another opportunity to catch up with it online on September 17th.

Fans of White’s previous fashion operas ROBE and WEAR will welcome RUNE. It has the familiar hallmarks of atonal music; a metaphorically dense, lyrical libretto, together with performers dressed in extraordinary costumes that heighten the settings of otherworldliness and dissonance that White is known for. If there’s one problem with last night’s performance at the Round Chapel, it is that the singers, dancers and musicians were simply lost in the space. Even the three grand pianos on stage failed to tame it. And that’s a pity, because the space is quite remarkable, (a sensitively restored Victorian chapel with elegant ironwork arches) and the acoustics good. If the sixty minute performance of RUNE that audiences saw last night is the complete work, it might be better to use more intimate spaces in future.

RUNE is described as a story on a planet “where history is forbidden.” In the opening moments, we are introduced to Kes’Cha’Au “ a young girl who dares to tell her story.” The description suggests an intriguing tale full of references to sea journeys to other cultures, but a story that seems to exist apart from any history that audiences would recognize. Is White’s point is that to escape history, we have to live exclusively in the world of the imagination? At any rate, White’s libretto is part Scandinavian sea saga in style, and also reminiscent of modernist poets from the early twentieth century. The company has been thoughtful enough to provide a copy in the programme, and it’s a dense read.

White is clever at finding gifted collaborators to work with, and his singers and musicians in particular serve his work well in RUNE. Soprano Patricia Auchterlonie (Kes’Cha’Au) and mezzo soprano Simone Ibbett Brown as Khye-Rell show great musicality in their challenging roles, all the while encased from head to toe in visually arresting costumes. The day-glo enhanced creations of Ka Wa Key Chow and Jarno Leppanen, also known as the Ka Wa Key fashion house, are the artists who created the fashion element of RUNE, and their work is memorable both for the look and the construction. The pair favour bold colours and shapes contrasted with more earthy shades, and some of the fabrics that Ka Wa Key uses are particularly appropriate to RUNE’s world. These reflect an intimate knowledge of animal given materials such as mohair, and the human technologies (knitting) that shape them. The pianists, Ben Smith (also musical director), Siwan Rhys and Joseph Havlat are technically accomplished and pleasurable to watch, especially in the moments where their fingers leave the keyboards behind, and boldly pluck at the strings instead of striking them. The dancers, (aka The Waters) Ryan Appiah-Sarpong, Max Gershon, Shakeel Kimotho and Thomas Page, are elegant and eye catching in their Ka Wa Key Chow outfits. If you’ve never seen the drape and swirl of mohair knits in action—again, you’re in for a treat. Nevertheless, the staging and the choreography of RUNE are the weak spots of an otherwise intriguing evening. The movements of the dancers are lost not just in the vast space of the Round Chapel, but in the sight lines if you happen to be sitting at certain places in the gallery. The use of a small sculpture on stage (by Sid the Salmon), does not help with the feeling of alienation from the action. If anything, it just adds to the overload of stimuli that the socially distanced audience struggle to connect with.

If RUNE as a whole fails to connect in live performance, it is because each disparate part of the event commands the whole attention, whether it’s the singing, the playing, the dancing, and yes, the fashion. It’s a challenge to take in so much in one gestalt. Nevertheless, Alastair White’s work is all about discovering how to use familiar spaces in innovative ways. RUNE, like earlier work, delights in pushing boundaries. This newest piece intrigues while it baffles, and beckons as it sails to unimagined lands. Follow if you can.



Reviewed by Dominica Plummer




Catch up online via Tête à Tête until 15th October


Previously reviewed this year by Dominica:
Adventurous | ★★½ | Online | March 2021
Doctor Who Time Fracture | ★★★★ | Unit HQ | June 2021
In My Own Footsteps | ★★★★★ | Book Review | June 2021
L’Egisto | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2021
Luck be a Lady | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | June 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
Starting Here, Starting Now | ★★★★★ | Waterloo East Theatre | July 2021
The Game Of Love And Chance | ★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
The Ladybird Heard | ★★★★ | Palace Theatre | July 2021
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | ★★★ | Online | February 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Wild Card | ★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | June 2021
Rune | ★★★★★ | Round Chapel | August 2021


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