Tag Archives: Simon Lee

Rehab the Musical

Rehab the Musical


Playground Theatre

REHAB THE MUSICAL at the Playground Theatre



Rehab the Musical

“the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force”


Kid Pop (Jonny Labey) is a rock star; top of the game and at the height of fame. He has the whole world in his hands, yet he is in the firm clutches of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Inevitably he is up against an unsympathetic judge after the tabloids splash his drug habit on the front pages. Expecting a custodial sentence, he is instead sent into rehab for sixty days. Kid Pop cockily accepts this as a free holiday rather than the journey into the wilderness we follow him on. He is, of course, in denial. In control. The drugs are in control – but so is his pr man, Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen) whose hold over him proves to be almost as fatal as the narcotics. Labey and Allen are portraying vivid caricatures here, but the beauty of their performances lightens them into warm shades of humanity. A skill shared by the entire cast.

The story, to some degree, stems from songwriter Grant Black’s and Britpop poet Murray Lachlan’s personal battles with addiction and mental health. But far from preaching they have alchemised their experiences, along with writer Elliot Davis, into a shining gem of musical theatre. It has just the right balance of humour and pathos, shallowness and depth to appeal to the masses. Yes, the journey is a touch predictable, and the twists in the road clearly signposted, but the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force.

Labey is enjoying every moment, barely able to contain his delight even in the darker moments. He has sixty days to recover in ‘The Glade’; the rehabilitation centre populated with his fellow addicts. Depicted as misfits they resemble everyman – perhaps a symbol of the ubiquity of addiction. The velvet voiced Phil Sealey is poignantly magnificent as over-eater Phil while Annabel Giles hilariously recounts the past shenanigans of sex-addict Jane Killy (numerous name-drops of real-life celebrities will surely have lawyers working overtime!). ‘The Glade’ even houses a tanning addict. “Yes – it’s a thing” deadpans John Barr in a glorious turn as Barry Bronze, forever showing polaroids of his orange skin from past holidays.

While Kid Pop counts his days in rehab, Malcolm Stone desperately and ruthlessly tries to keep his protégé in the headlines and his name alive (if not the client). Obsessive, corrupt and foul, Allen amazingly renders him likeable. Jodie Steele gives a star turn as sidekick Beth Boscombe, hard as steel (no pun intended) but with a heart, and voice, of gold. The show stealer, though, is Gloria Onitiri as Lucy Blake, sent into ‘The Glade’ by Stone to spy on Kid Pop. Onitiri’s presence and outstanding vocals are as dangerously intoxicating as the subject matter.

The writers have put together a wonderfully strong piece of theatre. It shuns digging deep into the nature of addiction, but it never belittles it. The abundant humour never mocks these characters – there is too much affection and care in the writing. But let us not forget that this is a musical. And the score is exceptional. From stadium rock to cheesy-pop; power ballads alternate with rousing ensemble pieces. Duets and solos tug our hearts in all directions possible. All pulsing with wonderfully clever and emotive lyrics, and swaying to the rhythms of Gary Lloyd’s sharp choreography.

“Rehab” comes with a message but is so beautifully dressed up in song and dance we soak it up without realising what we are learning. We are just swept along on the highs and lows of a truly addictive performance.



Reviewed on 7th September 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



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To Kill a Mockingbird – 3.5 Stars


To Kill a Mockingbird

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 25th October 2018


“does a good job of covering all bases, capturing a sense of small town life and effectively enforcing Lee’s message”


Widely read and studied to this day, the plot of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird needs no introduction. That being said, I’m going to introduce it anyway, just in case you (like me) were forced to study less interesting books like Of Mice and Men (sorry, John Steinbeck). Maycomb, Alabama, is a town where racism is a fact of everyday life – which is no surprise considering it’s the 1930s and the Jim Crow laws are still enforced. The politics of race isn’t something that Jem and Scout Finch are old enough to fully understand, but when their father Atticus is called to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of attacking a white woman, they are forced to confront it head on.

But, really, there is no adequate way to summarise To Kill a Mockingbird, because you’d inevitably miss things out. The worry is always that those adapting it will do the same, that they won’t do justice to its many themes, or neglect your favourite character. Whilst it is by no means perfect, Tower Theatre Company’s new production does a good job of covering all bases, capturing a sense of small town life and effectively enforcing Lee’s message.

The play is staged in the company’s new home in Northwold Road, Stoke Newington, which proves itself to be a versatile venue. The broad stage and high, beamed ceilings evoke the feeling of an old-fashioned courthouse in which old-fashioned attitudes are the height of modernity. Three wooden frames are redecorated to suggest different settings: Boo Radley’s house becomes the courthouse gallery, whilst Mrs Dubose’s front garden seats the judge. Visually, the production is slick and adds credibility to the action.

Tower Theatre Company are not a professional company, but many of their performances are of professional quality. Ruby Mendoza-Willcocks’ energetic and committed portrayal of Scout is a highlight. Mendoza-Willcocks perfectly captures her precocious innocence; she is entirely believable throughout. Emily McCormick, who gives a memorable performance as Scout’s friend Dill, provides welcome humour in the midst of tension. The courtroom scene, which is the highlight of the novel, is the highlight here, too, thanks to the quiet gravitas of Atticus (Simon Lee) and Tom (Jordan Duvigneau) and the contrasting anger of his accusers. They perfectly capture the injustice of the situation: Atticus’ direct address to the audience makes us complicit in Tom’s treatment and invested in his fate. Unfortunately other scenes are less evocative, as many of the supporting characters are hurried off stage before their presence can be felt. Additionally, the dialogue is sometimes hard to understand as the actors endeavour to maintain the fast pace.

This production serves to remind us of the beauty, depth, and power of Lee’s story, which is still as impactful today as it was sixty years ago. Despite the occasional slippage out of character (or, more frequently, out of accent), Tower Theatre Company have captured the heart of Lee’s novel and created a production that is as effecting as it is enjoyable.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Robert Piwko


The Tower Theatre

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Tower Theatre until 3rd November



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