Tag Archives: Tara Usher



Tristan Bates Theatre



Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 17th January 2019



“this play, written for a stonking all-female cast, perhaps needed a bit more darkness, a bit more bite”


This all-female cast and crew production is fun, dynamic and crowd-pleasing. A strong cast of four, directed by Charlotte Everest, brought Robert Luxford’s sometimes witty, energetic script to life, making some bold and engaging staging and performance choices. But a truncated flow in stage action and occasionally restrictive episodic structure mean it sacrifices humorous depth for giggling shallows.

Natalya Wolter-Ferguson, Cecile Sinclair and Rebecca Wilson are a terrific trio: perfectly balanced, wonderfully varied and each with their own outrageous showcase moment, they were a joy to watch. I found their commitment and passion exciting, and their clear support of one another inspiring. All embraced the challenges which their parts required, and the result was three female performers being free, uninhibited and brave onstage. Gillian Broderick joins the action later, but her reputation precedes her as the infamous Mother Superior, who turns out not to be so superior after all. Broderick adds a new flavour to the plot, and she played the inscrutable, but ultimately liberally persuadable, nun with growing conviction and nuance as the play progressed. The cast enjoyed themselves, which was reflected back at them in the auditorium.

Luxford’s script has clear intentions, which you can read immediately in the show’s aesthetic, and the performers’ characterisation: camp, mellow shock, sex and silliness – all habit-forming stuff. But each scene is so contained that the narrative never quite moved beyond stereotype. I was particularly frustrated by Mother Superior’s rousing speech about the church’s misogyny, in which the first example she used was that make-up is perceived as problematic. This dissection never quite unravelled and complexified to such an extent that the little shocks of the show amounted to the feeling of anything beyond being tickled. Being tickled is fine, but this play, written for a stonking all-female cast, perhaps needed a bit more darkness, a bit more bite.

Tara Usher’s set design is excellent. It perfectly frames, frills and sasses up the Tristan Bates space, with a gloriously kitsch combo of electric neon, which accents model angel wings and a garish central cross, and baby pink and blue velvet bedsheets, adorned with simpering Christs. It creates the perfect realm for playful debauchery, and Everest’s direction comes to its own when she incorporates the bed as the centrepiece of the Sisters’ lusty confusion. Sally McCulloch’s lighting design, using torches and creating different moods and textures with isolated neon lights, is inventive and thoughtful. However, much as I thought the sound choices were second to nun (not a typo; what a playlist), a couple of the tracks could have been cut, to let the dialogue and performances speak. Recorded voices illuminating context and offering different perspectives on nuns within the church were a nice touch, but used a little too frequently: pairing them with blackouts at points furthered the script’s feeling of incompleteness.

Nuns was met with a warm audience reception. The production team have made a production which is worth seeing, for its creative vivacity and committed performances.


Reviewed by  Eloïse Poulton

Photography by XXXXXXXXXX



Tristan Bates Theatre until 26th January


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Gulf | ★★★ | April 2018
San Domino | ★★ | June 2018
The Cloakroom Attendant | ★★★ | July 2018
Echoes | ★★★★★ | August 2018
Love Lab | ★★★★ | August 2018
Butterfly Lovers | ★★ | September 2018
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sundowning | ★★★★ | October 2018
Drowned or Saved? | ★★★★ | November 2018
Me & My Left Ball | ★★★★ | January 2019


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Sweet Like Chocolate Boy – 5 Stars

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018


“combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations”


The richness and complexity of Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu’s play, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’, and the artistry of this new production at the Jack Studio Theatre is hard to describe. Based on two boys who live in the same London borough in different eras, he breaks down stereotypes and, with true understanding of character, takes us into a world of merging lives, reality, fantasy and music which celebrates how the growth of Black British culture in the 90s has made it what it is today.

Mars is today’s youth. Street-wise, full of enthusiasm, imagination and confidence, he heads towards the girl of his dreams, only to be confronted by people who question his heart, head and vanity. Bounty is from the 90s. Quietly out of place in a politically electric climate, he wants and tries to be a part of the world he’s in. Andrew Umerah (Mars) and Michael Levi Fatogun (Bounty) give compelling performances, showing the strengths and vulnerabilities of their times – Bounty swept along by a powerful wave of Black identity, but unable to keep up and Mars living the strong cultural legacy of Bounty’s day, but struggling to find his own place. Fatogun also gives excellent portrayals as the policeman, ghost and, in particular, the frightening force of Fantasia’s dad as he challenges Mars’ feelings for his daughter. Umerah skilfully contrasts Mars with Bounty’s dad, Prophet (an American Black Panther type) and Bounty’s best friend, James, brought up to be the typical white racist of that time. Veronica Beatrice Lewis offers wonderfully colourful acting as the boisterous, self-assured Sandra who likes to tease Bounty’s meekness, the lovely, sincere Michele, Bounty’s first love and Fantasia, whose self-possessed nature Mars falls for.

Fynn-Aiduenu’s direction captures the vibrant energy of both today and the 90s with language, movement and music creating their own moments of drama and humour. As we enter the theatre, the DJ (Gabby Nimmo/Alice Fofana) presides and remains as a godly presence throughout. Sound (Shadé Joseph) and lighting (Bethany Gupwell) fit perfectly into the action, taking us slickly from one scene to another and the movement is ingeniously directed by Sean Graham while simple costumes (Tara Usher) effectively use minimal alterations and details to change persona.

‘Sweet Like Chocolate Boy’ combines interesting characters, a captivating storyline and engaging language with brilliantly realised, often hilarious interpretations, innovative staging and plenty of garage and jungle to create a uniquely descriptive and unforgettable experience.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Aaron Kelly


Sweet Like Chocolate Boy

Jack Studio Theatre until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fear and Misery of the Third Reich | ★★★ | January 2018
The Tempest | ★★★½ | February 2018
Stuffed | ★★★★ | March 2018
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Golden F**king Years | ★★★ | April 2018
Kes | ★★★★★ | May 2018
The Night Alive | ★★★½ | May 2018
Stepping Out | ★★★ | June 2018
Back to Where | ★★★★ | July 2018
The White Rose | ★★★★ | July 2018
Hobson’s Choice | ★★★★ | September 2018
Dracula | ★★★½ | October 2018


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