Tag Archives: Simone Ibbett-Brown




Wilton’s Music Hall

FEAST at Wilton’s Music Hall



“a feast for the eyes and ears with an interesting perspective that should keep the audience gripped”

Feast tells the story Jessica, a woman on the verge of a promotion, desperately trying to impress to get it. It’s theatre about class barriers, trying by any means to fit in, and what impact that has on a person – universal themes explored innovatively with operatic style. The piece opens with Jessica speaking to someone we assume to be in HR about the previous evening’s events – giving a sense of trepidation for what’s to come. We are then transported to the evening in question with Jessica as narrator, punctuated by song, as if for the HR person’s benefit.

Stephanie Wake-Edwards gives an outstanding performance as Jessica and developed the original concept alongside Simone Ibbet-Brown. Despite not being an opera afficionado, the storytelling of the piece was not lost on me. Stephanie’s expressions and physicality communicate the meaning that the language cannot.

Is Feast an operatic cabaret? A jukebox musical? It’s described by the company as ‘a musical monologue’, which it sort of is, except, not quite. Joey Akubeze, Joseph Black and Andy Bewley are all on stage throughout the first act contributing heavily to the dialogue, although not to the musical numbers, as three important men in Jessica’s life. Each brings a unique style to their characters and interest to the plot.

The score shows Wake-Edwards’ range as a performer, at times victorious, vengeful or vulnerable. There are some original compositions by Ben Comeau, with the whole piece performed confidently on the piano by musical director André Callegaro. Interspersed with the operatic numbers are some more folk, pop or rock songs that will be familiar to many, although interpreted differently. Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You was a surprise and, whilst not an unpopular song to cover, was the first time I had heard an operatic version. Where Joni is haunting, Stephanie is resonant – a moving tribute and unique take.

The first act is heavier on the dialogue, with music used to convey a particular emotion or moment. It’s also more outward facing with Jessica speaking directly to the audience, presenting herself to the world and her men in it. The tension builds, as slowly and steadily falling apart the perfect persona loses grip, climaxing with an unexpected moment of surrealism that closes the first act.

The shorter second act becomes an introspective psycho drama that is much more music heavy. This shift in style could be interpreted as reflective of the drama – Jessica’s mask has slipped and she’s turning inward, reflecting on who she really is, not just as who she projects herself as. More cynically, it doesn’t hurt for Wake-Edwards to have thirty minutes of almost uninterrupted singing to showcase her talents. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable performance, particularly her rendition of Mama by Shirley J Thompson, where every repetition of the two syllables conveys a new emotion.

The piece could do with some tightening round the edges. The people and relationships between them are not always clear, not helped by some rather rushed dialogue at key moments by Wake-Edwards. It slightly adds to the shroud of mystery over Jessica’s own character, and sense that not everything is as it seems – but more often just makes you feel as if you’ve missed something. The tech was also a bit slow to cue, there were moments where Wake-Edwards was clearly uncomfortable with her costume and hair, and a few issues with props that, on their own, would be nothing major. However, taken together it suggested a little more polish wouldn’t go amiss.

Nonetheless, Stephanie Wake-Edwards delivers a feast for the eyes and ears with an interesting perspective that should keep the audience gripped.

FEAST at Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed on 15th September 2023

by Amber Woodward


Previously reviewed at this venue:


I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical | ★★★★★ | August 2023
Express G&S | ★★★★ | August 2023
The Mikado | ★★★★ | June 2023
Ruddigore | ★★★ | March 2023
Charlie and Stan | ★★★★★ | January 2023
A Dead Body In Taos | ★★★ | October 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021



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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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