Tag Archives: Tara Noonan



Upstairs at the Gatehouse

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at Upstairs at the Gatehouse


“The show feels like it’s sailing in unchartered waters, which is a shame as it deserves better.”

Jason Robert Brown’s song cycle Songs For A New World shows the power of music in storytelling. Each of the seemingly unconnected songs, introduce us to a new character telling their micro story about a pivotal moment in each of their lives.

The cast of four open the show with the song, The New World, full of hope and the promise of a new world calling to them. The cycle moves to On The Deck Of A Spanish Sailing Ship 1482, and they sing of adventure, excitement and passion, as they literally sail to the new world. Then quickly the songs start to descend through stories of dashed hopes, lives missed and love lost.

Songs For A New World was Tony Award winning composer Brown’s 1995 musical debut, and his musicality, storytelling and genius for anthemic powerhouse songs are all there for the taking. The prolific contemporary composer and lyricist went on to write the generation defining The Last Five Years and the sublime Parade.

Songs For A New World is not a perfect musical, and the sixteen songs have wide ranging stories, locations and settings as each of the characters go through a life changing experience. It is with the final song, Hear My Song, that this abstract song cycle joins together by telling us to listen to each other’s stories to help you make choices:

“Hear my song – it was made for the times when you don’t know where to go. Listen to the song that I sing. You’ll be fine”.

However, in this production, director Kai Wright, makes the characters all appear slightly self-obsessed. He treats the songs as set pieces and the audience isn’t given the opportunity to feel a sense of journey. The show feels like it’s sailing in unchartered waters, which is a shame as it deserves better.

Eleanore Frances, with the best numbers, stands out as Woman 2. She grabs every moment in her songs, which includes high comedy in Just One Step, as a rich wife who is about to jump off the ledge of her 57th floor apartment to make a point to her cheating husband; to a full out Brecht and Weill torch song parody with Surabaya-Santa, as a Mrs Claus left alone with just the elves; via the stand out Stars and the Moon which is probably the best known song in the show.

The musical postcard drops in on Woman 1, Lizzy Parker, who gives heart to Christmas Lullaby as a young girl alone in the world discovering she is pregnant. Luke Walsh, as Man 1, looks like he is permanently in pain as he goes for the high riffs – which he actually sings well, particularly in Steam Train.

Kudos goes to musical director Liam Holmes at the piano with his glorious fellow musicians (two violins, cello, bass guitar and drums) who were on fire, especially at the end of the show, with no voices over them, they gave it large – a fantastic end to the evening.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed on 8th February 2024

by Debbie Rich

Photography by Clarissa Debenham


Previously reviewed at this venue:

YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN | ★★ | December 2023
HOW TO BUILD A BETTER TULIP | ★★ | November 2022
FOREVER PLAID | ★★★★ | June 2021



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Diary of a Gay Disaster cast

Diary of a Gay Disaster


King’s Head Theatre

DIARY OF A GAY DISASTER at the King’s Head Theatre


Diary of a Gay Disaster cast

“The energy is infectious, with belting performances from all three cast members.”


When Mark Ravenhill and Hannah Price took over as artistic directors of the King’s Head Theatre in 2021, Ravenhill promised that the theatre would seek to represent ‘the full spectrum of experiences symbolised by the rainbow flag’. This Pride Month festival is doing just that, four guest artistic directors front ‘The Takeover’ season with Diary of a Gay Disaster being part of Tania Azevedo’s MT Pride Lab Season.

The show is a joyous and unapologetic exploration of the young queer female experience, bursting with riotous pop songs and tightly written one-liners. It’s specific, and plays to an audience who will relate, but that’s the beauty of it.

Ellis (Elly Fenton) is a new flatmate, joining intense and over the top Mia (Talya Soames) and chilled out Finlay (Liv O’Connor), who she’s met via Spare Room. In a desperate attempt to bond, Mia steals Ellis’ diary and insists they have a big night together reading it, to celebrate Ellis’ arrival. All three women are queer, and the diary documents the experiences of Ellis, growing up as a queer woman. They quickly find they’ve shared many of the same experiences, and each chapter is dissected, and sung about, in a string of poppy and peppy tunes.

The energy is infectious, with belting performances from all three cast members. Their passion shines in their comedy, and it stays high octane for most of the show. The more emotional, heartfelt moments are a little weaker, the characters are quite broadly sketched, meaning their own relationships are less interesting than the universal, relatable experiences that they sing about. But the commentary on current queer dynamics, on growing up queer and navigating finding a community is fresh and fantastic. One of the catchiest songs, ‘Is she queer or just a hipster’ will be an earworm for the foreseeable future. The conversations being raised are important, but are dealt with deftly and lightly.

Much of what works is thanks to the tightly written script, by Rachael Mailer, and the dynamic directing of Tara Noonan (as well as musical director Cerys McKenna). For the right audience, this play is liberating and relatable, perfectly articulating many people’s lived experience. It is also very funny. Strangely, if it were just the songs, and had less of a plot, it might even be stronger. There is a romantic plot shoehorned in, which doesn’t have time to develop, so comes a bit out of the blue. The characters are kept, on the whole, as tropes, to sum up different experiences. But it is fresh, and very funny. For several of the creative team, and cast, it is their theatre debut, and for a first foray, it is very strong.

The set is a bold, but simple, living room arrangement. Colourful bean bags, cushions and a sofa, which the three women slouch around on, pop up dramatically from behind. The lighting (Billy Highfield) is great fun, changing based on each song’s energy.

This show is bursting with catchy tunes, and tongue in cheek, very real commentary on the young queer female experience. It is a delight to watch, and a testament of the exciting new queer theatre that the King’s Head is showcasing.


Reviewed on 17th July 2023

by Auriol Reddaway


Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Black Cat | ★★★★★ | March 2023
The Manny | ★★★ | January 2023
Fame Whore | ★★★ | October 2022
The Drought | ★★★ | September 2022
Brawn | ★★ | August 2022
La Bohème | ★★★½ | May 2022
Freud’s Last Session | ★★★★ | January 2022
Beowulf: An Epic Panto | ★★★★ | November 2021
Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | October 2021


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