Tag Archives: Tom Giles

The Lord of the Rings


Watermill Theatre

THE LORD OF THE RINGS at the Watermill Theatre


Lord of the Rings

“The nuances of the characters are beautifully executed, particularly up close on the small stage.”


‘When Mr Bilbo Baggins announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement’. And so opens J. R. R. Tolkien’s monumental “The Lord of the Rings”; one of the best-selling books ever written. Since my early teens, I’m not sure I have met anybody who hasn’t read it. The Sunday Times once stated that “the English-speaking world is divided into those who have read ‘Lord of the Rings’ and those who are going to read it”. Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films echoes the epic scale of fantasy and adventure. How, then, can the story translate to a two-hundred-seater theatre in the Berkshire countryside? A good question, and one that becomes swiftly answered as we wander through the Shire, under an open sky, into Bilbo’s much anticipated birthday party. Woodsmoke drifts from the gardens of the old mill down to the stream, with the scent of Hog roast floating among the jugglers and minstrels, while Hobbits mingle with ‘the Big Folk’. As the party reaches its end, we are ushered inside where the adventure begins. A very big adventure in a pretty small space, but The Watermill Theatre have concocted a production in which each element of the stagecraft would put the most hallowed wizard to shame.

It is telling that this adaptation by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus (with music by A. R. Rahman, Värttinä and Christopher Nightingale) is referred to as a ‘musical tale’ rather than a musical. Shunning convention it avoids formulaic showtunes. Instead, the soundtrack follows the pulse of the emotions rather than the narrative; the underscoring seamlessly merging into song. Impressively performed by the actor-musician cast and ensemble, Mark Aspinall’s orchestrations ranges from folk to bar-room jigs, through to bombastic percussion-driven anthems, back again to the mysticism of the Celtic harp, whistles, fiddles and gorgeous voices.


“Each member of the cast deserves mention, and each could threaten to steal the show”


Frodo, who has inherited the One Ring from his cousin at the birthday party has to undertake the quest to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Louis Maskell carries the role with an instinctive ease that belies the demands of the emotional journey required. Nuwan Hugh Perera, as his companion Sam, is an unexpected voice of reason, merging light relief with solid support for his fellow hobbits. Across the board, the portrayal of the characters is natural, and paradoxically believable in all their other-worldly implausibility. Peter Marinker’s Gandalf has the wizened wisdom that keeps his power in check. Both Georgia Louise, as the Royal Elf Galadriel, and Aoife O’Dea as Arwen, enchant us with their performances and musicality. Each member of the cast deserves mention, and each could threaten to steal the show. The largest threat being Matthew Bugg’s Gollum, who weaves his way into the second act: feral, feline and fluid. Bugg moves as though underwater, defying gravity as easily as abusing the hobbits’ trust.

The nuances of the characters are beautifully executed, particularly up close on the small stage. But remarkably, when required, the epic proportions magically come into full force. Paul Hart’s staging is phenomenal. Simon Kenny’s ingenious design utilises every nook and cranny of the playing space. With the stunning combination of Adam Fisher’s sound, Rory Beaton’s lighting, George Reeve’s projections, Charlie Tymms’ puppetry and Anjali Mehra’s choreography (to name a few of the key creatives), the effect is that of a sweeping panorama. Only later, in retrospect, does one wonder how it is achieved.

“The Lord of the Rings: A Musical Tale” is little short of a miracle. As we are led back outside, back to the Shire, darkness has fallen. We bid farewell to Frodo. Emotions are running high. Our senses have been caught in the storm of a spectacle, but we have still heard the intimate sounds of extraordinary theatre making. Most people who have read Tolkien’s high-fantasy novel would agree that they could read it again. Everyone, I’d like to think, who sees this adaptation at The Watermill will agree that they could see it again. And again.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS at the Watermill Theatre

Reviewed on 1st August 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith




Previously reviewed at this venue:

Mansfield Park | ★★★★ | June 2023
Rapunzel | ★★★★ | November 2022
Whistle Down The Wind | ★★★★ | July 2022
Spike | ★★★★ | January 2022
Brief Encounter | ★★★ | October 2021

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings

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Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – 3 Stars


Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed – 1st May 2018


“rough around the edges, let down by uncertainty”


In a pink bus dubbed ‘Priscilla’, two drag queens and a trans-woman travel across the Australian outback to perform at a venue in Alice Springs. The unlikely three run into a series of surprises on the way, some hysterical, some considerably more serious, but the biggest surprise of all awaits them at their destination. Outrageous and glitter covered, the journey is underscored by Tick’s anxieties surrounding his pending reunion with his son, and Bernadette’s own romantic journey. Based on the 1994 hit Australian film ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ and adapted into one of the pioneering jukebox musicals for the stage, this is a cult favourite featuring hits from across the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Mark Inscoe’s Bernadette is the most consistently strong performance of the night. Glamorous, warm and always ready with a biting comment, Inscoe delivers this part with the class and professionalism she deserves and when it comes to the lip syncs Inscoe is impossible to take your eyes off. He looks considerably more comfortable in drag than his fellow actors, and commands the stage unquestionably. Inscoe’s performance is a clear example of the level this whole production needs to reach. Daniel Bailey’s first dance sequence as Adam/Felicia is fantastic – explosive, committed and dynamic. Unfortunately Bailey is unable to bring this energy to his acting. He feels unsure and clumsy, and rather fades into the background, particularly in the larger scenes. Tom Giles as Tick/Mitzi gets progressively stronger throughout, and shines in his show-stopping delivery of ‘MacArthur Park’. This a stand out moment, and he single handedly elevates the energy of the whole production. The relationship between Bernadette and Tick is particularly lovely, genuine and believable, and both Inscoe and Giles deliver moving performances in their more tender moments.

The main cast are joined by a lively community chorus, and the use of actor musicians in the show is a lovely addition which also provides visual variety to a stage, that is otherwise quite bare. Whilst the bus itself is cleverly designed by Joanna Scotcher, the cast are forced to work harder than they might otherwise need to, to generate the feeling of spectacle required. Mark Howland’s lighting design doesn’t help either, overly dark at points and less dynamic than I was hoping to see.

The chorus makes a fantastic sound which is at its best in the slower, harmony-based pieces, however in the faster numbers, particularly in the first half, the vocal entries are often uncertain and late, though the second half picks up in terms of energy and momentum. The vocals are frequently overpowered by the orchestral accompaniment and certain actors struggle without choreographed movement. This is a show whose spectacle relies on these chorus numbers being as impactful and as tight as possible, and it does struggle here.

Glitter, drag queens and a pink bus – if this doesn’t recommend a show, I don’t know what will. This production captures the fun, excitement and tenderness of the story, and is supported by some brilliant performances. Unfortunately it does feel rough around the edges, let down by uncertainty, however I hope that these issues can be solved by more rehearsal over the course of the run as this production is alive with potential.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Mark Sepple



Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 26th May


Interview with star of the show – Mark Inscoe


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