Tag Archives: Sophie Ward

The Mirror Crack'd

The Mirror Crack’d


Royal and Derngate Theatre

THE MIRROR CRACK’D at the Royal and Derngate Theatre



The Mirror Crack'd

“Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet”


Original Theatre has assembled a first-rate cast for this new adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff of Agatha Christie’s classic novel.
The action is set somewhere in the 1950s, a time when supermarkets and showers are new commodities, and the death penalty is still a deterrent. It’s not too much of a spoiler to report that a murder is committed for which there are a number of prime suspects. From out of town, and whose arrival is causing so much excitement in the sleepy village, are Hollywood legend Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward) with protective husband and film director Jason Rudd (Joe McFadden), co-star Lola Brewster (Chrystine Symone) and amongst their faithful entourage are waiter Guiseppe (Lorenzo Martelli) and secretary Elia (Sarah Lawrie). From within the village are the wealthy Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts), the down-to-earth Leighs (Jules Melvin & David Partridge) and Miss Marple’s home-help Cherry Baker (Mara Allen). A variety of personages with colourful accents – some of them over-played – verges close to pantomime on occasion. But as crucial scenes are re-enacted with different interpretations – bravo Jules Melvin – generally the performances are honest and rise above the caricature.

Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet, and Roberts’ bustling Dolly who appears to be the real village gossip.

Director Philip Franks moves this large cast of twelve naturally around the stage. Often in frieze positions whilst action is highlighted elsewhere, occasionally unwelcome shadows are cast from the otherwise effective side lighting (Emma Chapman). Frank’s insightful direction provides a line-up of suspects for us to learn who is who which aids the interval fun of making a guess as to whodunnit.

A central revolving structure (Designer Adrian Linford) provides the imposing backing for both Miss Marple’s living room and the film studio with large French windows and sliding glass doors showing a mirror reflection of the action. An almost constant background of effective incidental music going on behind much of the dialogue (Max Pappenheim) enhances the suspense but also evokes the comfortable feeling of watching something familiar on Sunday evening TV.

For much of the first act, Miss Marple (Susie Blake) sits on a central winged armchair, her bandaged sprained ankle raised, whilst snatches of action take place in front of her. The humorous repartee between her and Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot), as Miss Marple subtly takes over the questioning of suspects, is well done. Boot, despite a stereotypical moustache and much pacing, holds his own amid the laughter.

As Miss Marple takes to her feet with the aid of crutches, and then a walking stick, the plot moves closer to a denouement. We hear backstories about key players but an effort to provide some gravitas by writer Rachel Wagstaff by tying things together within a common theme of personal loss doesn’t really hit home.

This audience shows that the character of Miss Marple is well-loved and Susie Blake’s reliable and sympathetic portrayal of her steals the show. Who would have thought that this amiable old spinster’s first word on waking up from a dream at the start of the play would be “bugger”?


Reviewed on 31st October 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography by Ali Wright



For the full details of the UK Tour click here


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | May 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | July 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | July 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | November 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021
The Wellspring | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | March 2022
The Wellspring | ★★★ | March 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | September 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | October 2022


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Cancelling Socrates

Cancelling Socrates


Jermyn Street Theatre

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Cancelling Socrates

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 7th June 2022



“Littler and his team never disappoint in what they achieve in one of the most challenging theatre spaces in London”


Cancelling Socrates, just opened at the Jermyn Street Theatre, will please fans of Howard Brenton, one of the powerhouses of British playwriting of the last fifty years. The play may seem a departure from Brenton’s usual concerns. But then we think of Pravda, (written with David Hare) which engages with similar themes of promoting troublesome ideas to a wider public. In that con-text, a play about a long dead philosopher doesn’t seem like such an outlier in the Brenton canon.

Cancelling Socrates is about one of the most famous events in the history of western philosophy—the trial and execution of Athens’ leading philosopher. Socrates was a notable gadfly and “corrupter of the young” as his critics described him. Cancelling Socrates has all the hallmarks of Brenton’s craft—engaging dialogue, liberally sprinkled with witty one liners—and a plot that features extraordinary characters, dealing with fallout from forces greater than themselves. Brenton has always had a nice line in satirical edginess that can highlight a tragic situation while prompting an audience to laughter. But whereas the characters in Pravda have to deal with unscrupulous media barons, Cancelling Socrates has merely to deal with unscrupulous gods, and Athenian citizens tired of being stung into thinking for themselves. Right from the start, you know the arguments our eponymous hero marshals in his defence, are not going to end well.

This premiere production, directed by Tom Littler, and starring Jonathan Hyde as Socrates, places us directly in the philosophical fray of Athens in 399 BC. The limited space available at the Jermyn Theatre is once again utilized to clever effect, (set design by Isabella van Braeckel). In addition to the stylized Greek pillars and friezes, there are signs in both English and Greek available on stage for those patrons needing the toilets, and the sparse set actually gives a sense of spaciousness, which Littler and his cast use well. Cancelling Socrates opens with a blend of English and Greek until we are all settled down, and ready to engage with some philosophical wordplay (mercifully all in English.) Robert Mountford, who plays both Socrates’ friend Euthyphro in the first half, and the Goaler in the second, is an engaging foil for Hyde’s Socrates. Euthyphro is firmly on Team Socrates, but even he is begging for mercy by the end of a run in with the great man over what constitutes holy and unholy acts. It’s a nice set up for what follows.

Those who remember the pathos of Socrates’ death from Plato’s description in the Phaedo should not expect a similar effect in Cancelling Socrates. Brenton sets up the wit perhaps too well, so that the moment of drinking hemlock seems like whimsy, rather than tragedy. Even the presence of compelling characters such as Aspasia (Sophie Ward) and Xanthippe (Hannah Morrish) never quite shift the emphasis from the domestic to the civic. The trial takes place off stage, which doesn’t help. There is much talk of the gods, and the daemons that allegedly prompt Socrates into the acts that doom him. These arguments might not resonate much with a modern audience, even though Brenton reminds us that 5th century Athens was in a similar state of turmoil to 21st century London. It’s a tenuous connection, at best.

Nevertheless, time passes very pleasantly with Cancelling Socrates. Littler and his team never disappoint in what they achieve in one of the most challenging theatre spaces in London. The Jermyn Street Theatre is always warm and welcoming. This play is not a date night show, perhaps, unless you are both philosophers. But it’s provocative, and yes, even family, entertainment. You should definitely take up the opportunity to corrupt your own young.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Steve Gregson


Cancelling Socrates

Jermyn Street Theatre until 2nd July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
This Beautiful Future | ★★★ | August 2021
Footfalls and Rockaby | ★★★★★ | November 2021
The Tempest | ★★★ | November 2021
Orlando | ★★★★ | May 2022


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