Tag Archives: Stephen Hogan

Napoli, Brooklyn

Park Theatre

Napoli, Brooklyn

Napoli, Brooklyn

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 17th June 2019



“There is violence, despair and a moment of unrealised revelation, and Blair handles it all with a deft understanding”


This story of an Italian American family in nineteen sixties Brooklyn shines a light on the experiences of first and second generation immigrants, and the struggles faced by the women in particular. It is loosely based on writer Meghan Kennedy’s mother’s adolescence and the life of her big Italian Catholic family. Kennedy wants to honour the voices of girls from families like this who, both in the past and currently, have to fight to be heard. Six of the eight actors on stage are female, putting women’s experiences at the centre of the action.

The Muscolino family live in a Brooklyn tenement, and their story is told through a series of almost cinematic scenes that unveil the lives of the family members. The mother, Luda, brilliantly played by Madeleine Worrall, cooks and cares for her husband Nic and three daughters. But her family are not happy, and she is unable to cry. She can’t even talk to God anymore, as her husband has beaten up their daughter Vita, so she talks to an onion instead. Vita, vividly brought to life by Georgia May Foote, does not regret protecting her younger sister Francesca from their father’s rage, which was triggered by her cutting her hair short, and, although she has no wish to be in the convent she’s been sent to, she can appreciate the peace and calm there; a real contrast to her home life. Tina, the eldest, feels guilty that she didn’t stand up to their father and protect her sister. She is caught in a dead end job, denied schooling to help provide for her family, and Mona Goodwin does a lovely job of portraying her low self esteem and doubts. They are all caught in their own narratives, and those narratives are really all about love.

Francesca is in love with her friend Connie, and they are planning to run away to France. They dance to ‘Bee Bop A Lula.’ pretend to smoke cigarettes and look forward to a life where they can be their true selves. Hannah Bristow’s Francesca is feisty, funny, brave and full of the optimism of youth. Laurie Ogden plays Connie with tenderness and gentle determination, as the girls plan their escape.

Connie’s father is Albert, the local butcher and he is in love with Luda, she clearly likes him too, but she is faithful to her husband, even though he is greatly changed from the man she fell in love with. The two men are complete opposites; Stephen Hogan gives Albert a wistful gentleness that beautifully contrasts with Robert Cavanah’s frighteningly violent Nic. Cavanah’s performance has more than a touch of Marlon Brando about it, and the times when we see the man he used to be are unexpectedly touching.

The final character is Celia, played by Gloria Onitiri, a black woman who works with Tina at the factory. She is a happily married woman who loves reading and Onitiri plays her with spirit. The two women become friends, and when Tina asks Celia ‘how does it feel to be loved’ it brought a tear to my eye.

When a dreadful and completely unexpected tragedy strikes the whole area all their lives are turned upside down.

Napoli, Brooklyn is wonderfully directed by Lisa Blair. There are some standout moments, such as the mesmerisingly tender scene when Francesca and Connie gaze into each other’s eyes and mime undressing. There is violence, despair and a moment of unrealised revelation, and Blair handles it all with a deft understanding. The set, designed by Frankie Bradshaw, is atmospheric and gives a great sense of place and time. Johanna Town and Max Pappenhem created the lighting and sound, adding to the sensory impression of the setting, which was occasionally enhanced by the delicious smell of food.

This is a play that has a firm sense of time and place, but deals with themes that are just as relevant today. Beautifully acted and directed, it is definitely one to see.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Marc Brenner


Napoli, Brooklyn

Park Theatre until 13th July


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | April 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019


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Mad as Hell – 3 Stars


Mad as Hell

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 9th February 2018


“strong performances from all, coupled with an understated script full of humour and optimism”


Jermyn Street Theatre is one of those tiny studios with limited space. The ambience can make or break a show very quickly. If the audience is not on board then it’s off putting to actors literally toe to toe with the front row. Equally If any of the acting isn’t up to par there is nowhere to hide and the people in the seats will lose interest quickly. This evening the play hits the mark from the start and hooks in the auditorium from the beginning.

The show is based on both fact and fiction; the words of latter-day movie star Peter Finch and his third wife Eletha Barrett themselves, with ‘imagined’ dialogue from writer Adrian Hope and director/writer Cassie McFarlane, based on the hell raising past of Finch and the social scandal of an interracial marriage at the time. Finch is a well known British/Australian actor who finds love with his ‘Ellie’. A romance that alters his lifestyle, calms him down and creates a supportive partnership, and is the thing that brings him the most happiness. Yet, a gradual accumulation of outright racism, ignorance and even ‘well meant’ prejudice fires him up and makes him ‘Mad as Hell’, and becomes the emotional source for his final and greatest film role.

Much of the play centres on Jamaican Eletha’s charm and charisma, and her influence on Finch. Vanessa Donovan brings this strong independent woman to the stage with a great portrayal of a determined, passionate and clever Ellie. Stephen Hogan seamlessly brings the womanising, hard-drinking Peter Finch to life with his sharp wit and unapologetic ego, yet convinces the audience he wants to be a better man, husband and father.

Alexandra Mardell manages to both shine as the brazen wannabe Debbie, and yet fades into the background as hesitant maid Daisy. I had to look closely to be sure it was the same actress!

The set is very simple. Different locations insinuated by the position of the props and the music between acts. These scene changes were done deftly by stagehands but I did find the prolonged blackouts, albeit with nostalgic music (from sound designer David Beckham), a bit of a distraction.

Luckily with strong performances from all, coupled with an understated script full of humour and optimism, this play is a funny, bittersweet but timely reminder of the past. It allows glimpses into the racial tensions across the globe in the 60s and 70s, through a couple striving for harmony at home. A lot has changed in half a century. Too much remains the same.


Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Eddie Otchere


Mad as Hell

Jermyn Street Theatre until 24th February 2018



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