Tumble Tuck @ King’s Head Theatre

After a well-received run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Sarah Milton’s solo show Tumble Tuck is back in London, headlining the King’s Head Theatre’s Who Runs The World? season. Full of humour, wit, and some very touching moments, it’s the perfect addition to this collection of work celebrating female playwrights.

Daisy’s been asked by a semi-professional swimming team to join them for a competition. As she waits to jump in the pool for the relay, she wonders how she got there. She’s not slender and smooth like Kath or Sophie. Her legs jiggle, and does she really need to shave them? When she takes the plunge and they actually win third place, Daisy has a moment of peace. But when her best friend Alice brings her some unwelcome news, Daisy anxiety kicks in and fearful emotions from her past come flooding back to her.


The comedy is perfectly presented and the topic of mental health and body image is weaved in seamlessly, so Milton is able to address these darker themes with care and dignity. While Daisy’s story is in the centre of the piece, every other character is solidly crafted. They’re each unique, and Milton captures this from every mannerism they portray to their personalities. Each relationship is extremely well-thought-out too. The friendship between Daisy and best friend Alice holds a mirror up to all close relationships between girlfriends – they’re so close, people even mistake them for sisters. The relationship is so real, which is what makes it so heartbreaking when Alice carries out the ultimate betrayal.

Daisy’s story is very relatable which is what makes Tumble Tuck such an enjoyable performance. While things have happened to Daisy, Milton makes sure that she is not defined by her past. Yes, she’s had a problematic relationship with her body, and with those around her, but it’s important that she’s found a way to deal with those things and use them to her strength. It’s through this honest and vulnerable portrayal that makes Daisy instantly likeable – and makes Milton’s performance such a success.

At times it’s funny, and at other times it’s heartbreaking – the show is perfectly balanced which is what makes Milton’s writing a triumph. She’s created a clever and engaging show that’s a perfect addition to this King’s Head Theatre season, and an immensely enjoyable watch.

Tumble Tuck is at the King’s Head Theatre until 12th May.


Living a Little @ King’s Head Theatre

Produced by Riot House Theatre, and In Your Face Theatre – the same guys who staged the ridiculously enjoyable Trainspotting Living a Little is a show about zombies, friendship and love. Full of brilliant comedy, as well as some heartbreaking scenes, writer Finlay Bain (who also performs) and director Jordan Murphy have created an entertaining piece of work.

Paul (Paul Thirkel) and Rob (Bain) are two flatmates stuck amidst a zombie apocalypse. It’s not clear how long they have lived under these conditions or how the human population even started turning into zombies, but the two have a comfortable arrangement in the flat. That’s until Penelope (Pearl Appleby) bursts in through their door – the duo’s first ever contact with another person. She’s clearly been through some tough stuff, and Rob’s “live a little” attitude isn’t helping. But when the three let loose in a drug fuelled evening, true emotions are revealed, and they’re forced to deal with the consequences.

Rob lal the one.jpg

The cast is absolutely terrific. Thirkel is instantly likeable as Paul. His physical comedy is on point, and each of his movements is calculated to hit a punchline perfectly. Opposite him, Bain’s Rob is obnoxious with his misogynistic and laddish behaviour. But the character’s brashness is balanced well by the writer’s ability to still make him sympathetic with the love he shows for his friend. Appleby’s performance is strong, and a particular highlight is Penelope’s hilariously extreme and completely valid opinion of the X Factor, which understandably received a round of approving applause from the audience.

The show is very fast-paced, and the back and forths between the actors are almost constant, but never tiring to watch. This tempo emphasises the emotions present in the more touching and intimate scenes, which are neatly and rhythmically placed into the piece. There is a lot of information to digest in 60 minutes, but Bain has successfully managed to create a story that’s easy to follow. The ambiguity surrounding the conditions in which the zombies have appeared is intriguing, and allows for some grotesque speculation by the characters (which is great), but also doesn’t fully remove the fictitious aspect of the situation – by that I mean there could very well be a zombie apocalypse one day, you just can’t ever know.

This is an energetic and funny show from beginning to end. With its pop-culture quips, impressive set, and a cast who genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, Living a Little is a zombie apocalypse you’re definitely going to want to be a part of.

Living a Little is at the King’s Head Theatre until 14th May.

Threads @ The Hope Theatre

Written by David Lane, Threads is a story about the pressures and expectations of moving on from a break-up and the struggles that come with it. Lane weaves supernatural concepts into the this  kitchen sink drama to look at the characters’ relationship breakdown. And while, at times, the snippets of comedy and individual performances are engaging, the use of metaphor becomes very hard to make sense of, convoluting the piece as a whole.

Vic (Katharine Davenport) arrives to see Charlie (Samuel Lawrence). It’s been 5 years since they broke up, and she’s moved on and made herself a new life. Charlie, on the other hand, has stayed put, unable to leave “their” flat, almost becoming a part of the building itself. He hasn’t eaten or had anything to drink since Vic left, and doesn’t feel pain anymore. As the two talk, their surroundings strangely change, while they reveal things that are unknown to one another.


Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

The play starts off with intrigue. Charlie is pacing, looking out of the window, and Vic’s appearance is shocking and unexpected for him. Their dialogue is engaging from the start. Yet once Lane introduces the fantastical elements to the piece, it’s difficult to keep up with them. It appears that the house the two characters once shared wants them back together, but this theme does not fully carry all the way through. On top of this, Lane adds more layers of metaphor which is hard to keep track of.

Lawrence’s performance as Charlie is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the piece. His lengthy speeches are fully engaging, and he presents Charlie’s sense of vulnerability well. Davenport’s performance is mild, until the very end when her over the top acting is, unfortunately, funny instead of emotional in any way. While Lawrence does give a good performance, as a pair the two lack chemistry.

Rachel Sampley’s lighting design is intriguing and elevates the paranormal additions to the piece, which is balanced nicely with Jo Jones’ set of old technological objects. But Lane’s writing makes the story hard to follow, and overall, Threads is just not a very memorable piece.

Threads is at The Hope Theatre until 29th April.

2 Become 1 @ King’s Head Theatre

Kerri Thomason and Natasha Granger’s 2 Become 1 is an upbeat musical exploring female friendship and the evolution of dating, set to a 90s soundtrack. Bursting with nostalgia and girl power, the play perfectly captures the pop-culture of the era, and the talented cast present some truly hilarious renditions of these classic songs.

Jess (Granger) has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and to stop her from wallowing in self-pity, her friends decide to take her on a night out. From speed dating, to using Cosmo tips to impress men, to singing in the ladies loos, the girls do their best to cheer up Jess’ broken heart. But in the end, after a quick stop at the chippy, Jess realises she doesn’t need a man when she is surrounded by girl power.


Photo: Liam Prior

The chemistry of the cast is exquisite on stage and it genuinely feels like these women have been friends for a long time. Granger captures the distressed dumpee’s character perfectly, and her physical comedy is brilliant. The stand-out performer of the piece is Jessica Brady, who plays the obsessive and fickle-hearted Amanda. Her powerful voice is the perfect fit for Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ and along with the audience participation, this is the highlight of the piece.


Photo: Liam Prior

While presenting a female-centric view through their characters, Thomason and Granger split the action with real-life recordings of men and their opinions on dating. Contrasting the 90s action with the contemporary recordings highlights just how much dating has changed in such a short period of time, especially with the internet. We see the character Molly (played by Thomason) muse about this at the end of their girls night out, commenting on just how ridiculous it would be to form opinions of people based just on the way they look.

Thomason and Granger have created a short and energetic piece, full of laughs and great throwbacks. Though their is an overarching theme about modern-day dating practices and how unorthodox they are when compared to 20 years ago, this is a very light-hearted show. With just the right amount of cheesiness, 2 Become 1 is a delight, and a great alternative Christmas treat.

2 Become 1 is at the King’s Head Theatre until 7th January.

Laughing Matter @ King’s Head Theatre

Written by Paul Lichtenstern (who also directs) and James Thomson (who also stars), Laughing Matter is a verbatim piece that focuses on understanding the death of a parent, and it is theatre company End of Moving Walkway’s first devised play. While at times the concepts explored can get slightly intense and hard to follow, the funny and very touching aspects of the show make it a great hour of theatre.

While working on a theatre project he was developing, Thomson was secretly recording day-to-day conversations between his own family. When his father passed away, these recordings were the only things Thomson had. These mundane interactions suddenly became significant to him. Using one of these fragments, Lichtenstern and Thomson attempt to find meaning in the world.

Laughing Matter - James Thomson, Keith Hill (1).JPG

Thomson’s performance is energetic and engaging at the beginning, and when speaking to the audience directly his sincerity is comforting. However, once he begins to repeatedly focus on colour perception, physics and the universe in order to gain a profound understanding of our place in the world, the story becomes very hard to follow. When he first appears on stage, he says he has come up with a list of three things that will help defend his choice of subject matter. Whether or not he actually lists these things at any point gets drowned in the lengthy chat about space and the number of stars and planets that exist in the universe. The points that the first part of the piece tries to are swallowed up in this dominating dense discourse, and it is consequently hard to follow and make sense of.

However, once Thomson’s father Simon (performed brilliantly by Keith Hill) joins him on stage, the interactions between the father and son are touching to watch. Their conversation highlights the ups and downs presented in all relationships, especially those between parents and children. James is short-tempered with his dad and even insulting at times. When the scene is played over and over again, he attempts to engage with his father in slightly different ways, aiming to gain a different perspective from his speech, trying to make the moment last. Thomson and Hill are brilliant on stage together, and their interactions are moving, which creates an emotional atmosphere in the space.

Lichtenstern and Thomson have created a piece of work that makes the audience consider their own relationships with their loved ones, while also questioning their existence in the universe. The subject matter is poignant, and even though some of science talk gets boring, the humour and warmth of the show makes it enjoyable and well worth a visit to the King’s Head Theatre.

Laughing Matter is at the King’s Head Theatre until 16th July.

Correspondence @ Old Red Lion Theatre

The situation in the Middle East is something which is covered in the news very frequently, and Syria is often the topic of conversation. It’s therefore fitting to see a show about the Arab Spring making a home at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Lucinda Burnett’s Correspondence aims to look at the conflict, and alongside it talk about mental health, but unfortunately loses momentum halfway through.

Correspondence (c) Richard Lakos (1).jpg

Photo: Richard Lakos

The play, set in 2011, follows 16 year old Ben (Joe Attewell), from Stockport who is looking for a big news story to put in his school paper. His Xbox is where he can get away from his parents who are going through a divorce, and this is where he can connect with his friend Jibreel (Ali Ariaie) from Syria and play games. When Ben doesn’t hear from Jibreel for a few days, he becomes very worried about his friend, especially with the troubles happening in Damascus, and decides he must go and find out what has happened to Jibreel. School bully Harriet (Jill McAusland) tags along, and both head to Syria. What they find, however, becomes very distressing for Ben, which ultimately affects his mental health.

There are elements of this play that help carry it through to the end. The acting is superb. Attewell is brilliant as Ben, presenting the audience with a convincing teenage boy who is clearly different from his peers. McAusland’s gobby Harriet is obnoxious in the beginning of the play, but we warm to her as we see how she cares for her new friend Ben. Ariaie’s Jibreel is also great, and brings to life his character well. The scenes between Jibreel and Ben were a personal favourite. Burnett’s language in these scenes is realistically teenage, and they burst with comedy. It’s fun to watch the two engage over their Xbox, even though they are from two very different walks of life.

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Photo: Richard Lakos

However some aspects of this performance did not entirely live up to expectations. The themes of the play not only includes the Arab Spring, but attempts to discuss mental health, problems facing children whose parents go through divorce, and bullying. But trying to fit all these issues into a 90 minute play does take its toll. Ben’s mental health problems don’t become very clear until he has an episode while in Syria near the end of the play. Burnett wants to explore a range of things in her play, and in doing so fails to hone in on any of them. Consequently the ending feels rushed and doesn’t conclude anything in any clear way.

Correspondence (c) Richard Lakos (3).jpg

Photo: Richard Lakos

The aspects of this play that are worth watching are the way the technological elements are weaved into it through lighting and set design, created by Christopher Nairne and Bethany Wells respectively. The centre set-piece is a giant white circle, used to connote Ben’s bedroom and a bus stop, amongst other things. The flashing LED lights bring to the small Old Red Lion space a refreshing and up-to-date feel, and make the scene changes interesting to watch.

The performances in Correspondence is what makes this play engaging, alongside the interesting design. Aside from that, Burnett’s play fails to reach it’s full potential and disappoints with its rushed ending. This is very unfortunate as the subjects examined are very thought-provoking, and would make a fascinating piece, if explored correctly.

Trainspotting @ King’s Head Theatre

In Your Face Theatre’s critically acclaimed Trainspotting has now found a home at the King’s Head Theatre after its sell out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. Full of drug-fuelled antics and glow sticks, this show brings to life Irvine Welsh’s cult classic in a very vivid and exhilarating way.

The story doesn’t need an introduction, especially since Danny Boyle’s film adaptation, which arguably gave it its cult status. Directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin (who also stars as Tommy) have created a condensed version of the story in order to fit the action into a short period of time. Consequently some of the characters do not appear, and some individual stories are merged together. For someone who has seen the film, it takes a few minutes to work out who some of the characters are because of this. But that’s fine as the directors include the best elements of the story in this play, and that helps keep the pace up.

Rory Speed as Sickboy in TRAINSPOTTING. Picture credit Andreas Grieger

Photo: Andreas Grieger

As you walk into the auditorium, a glowstick is handed to you and you are invited to join the rave happening inside. The strobe lights and pumping music is rivaled by the energetic performers, who pull audience members onto the dance floor to join them. What’s more impressive, however, is that the ensemble manage to keep this energy up throughout the performance. Gavin Ross gives a stand-out performance as Renton, and his narration is extremely engaging. He manages the comedy in the piece well, but is also able to present the desperation of Renton’s addiction perfectly.

Gavin Ross as Renton in TRAINSPOTTING. Credit Andreas Grieger

Photo: Andreas Grieger

As an ensemble, the cast work well together. Their energy during the comedic scenes make their performances very enjoyable to watch. They move around the space, jumping in between the spectators, and including everyone in their conversation. I truly felt like I was a part of their lives. This involvement also makes the more sombre scenes feel very intimate. In particular, Sickboy’s (Rory Speed) and Alison’s (Erin Marshall) discovery of the baby was a very tragic and upsetting moment, and their performances were perfect.

Trainspotting is a very fun and enjoyable piece of theatre. The constant movement and the switch between narration and conversation keep the energy up throughout. The performance is very hectic, with the performers weaving their way through the audience, and shit flying everywhere (just think toilet scene). But this never becomes overwhelming, and on the contrary is very exciting to see what is next in store. Just prepare to be a little uncomfortable during it – sitting on the floor for an hour and a bit gets difficult after a while. Overall, I had a very good time at the King’s Head, and I would definitely say you should choose to see Trainspotting.


The Long Road South @ King’s Head Theatre

Written by Paul Minx, The Long Road South was first performed at the Hope Theatre in 2014 as part of the So-and-So Arts Club’s Hopefull Rep season. Now at the King’s Head Theatre, director Sarah Berger brings to life this play exploring themes of race and family during the 60s in the American South, and does so in an interesting and enjoyable way.

Andre (Cornelius Macarthy) and his partner Grace (Krissi Bohn) work for the Price household as their hired help. It is now the end of summer, and the two want to head to Alabama to play their part the Civil Rights movement. While Andre waits patiently for the end of the day to receive his pay from Jake Price (Michael Brandon), Jake’s teenage daughter Ivy (Lydea Perkins) does all she can to prevent Andre from leaving. With Jake’s wife Carol Ann (Imogen Stubbs) getting increasingly drunk throughout the evening, Ivy attempting to seduce him, Grace  calling him a weak man, and Jake doing everything to avoid paying him, Andre increasingly gets frustrated, which leads to a complicated departure.

(l-r) Cornelius Macarthy as Andre (1)

Photo: Truan Munro

Minx’s writing enables Andre’s characters to develop throughout the play, which is what makes him so interesting. He begins as a man comfortable in his surroundings, attached to the house he has worked in for so long, and the family he has served. Unlike Grace, who is headstrong and willing to head to Alabama as quick as she can to help the cause, Andre is more contemplative. By the end however, he is stronger, encouraged by the thought of his daughter and the power of freedom. Macarthy is brilliant as Andre. He is very engaging and brings to the stage a very dignified character. Equally Bohn is great on stage as the smart and passionate Grace. She was my favourite, and I wish Minx would have developed her character further alongside Andre’s.

(l-r) Imogen Stubbs, Michael Brandon, Krissi Bohn, Lydea Perkins, Cornelius Macarthy

Photo: Truan Munro

Stubbs is terrific as wife Carol Ann. She is hilarious as she stumbles across the stage holding a rum and coke, dressed only in a slip and lime-green robe. Her portrayal of the drunk housewife is hilarious but also quite sad. Her drinking is due to her son who is absent from the play, and we are told he is in a home. This was another aspect of the play I wish Minx could have discussed further. While we were told the Price’s son was away, we were not told the circumstances in which he had to leave. All we saw was an empty chair Carol Ann still insisted was served a plate of dinner. I really wanted to find out more about their son, but I feel like this narrative was unfortunately abandoned towards the end of the play.

(l-r) Krissi Bohn as Grace, Cornelius Macarthy as Andre

Photo: Truan Munro

The Long Road South is a good piece of writing with some amusing and some striking characters, and Berger has successfully directed an enjoyable piece of theatre. However the text does need development in some of its characterisation, but the best part of this play is Andre’s story and Minx tell this in an engaging way. Combined with Macarthy’s brilliant performance, Andre as a character is spectacular, enough to make this play worth a watch.

The State vs John Hayes @ King’s Head Theatre

A part of King’s Head Theatre’s upcoming #Festival45, which showcases new writing, The State vs John Hayes is a brilliant one-act piece written and performed by Lucy Roslyn. The show explores identity and insanity in a disturbingly spectacular way.

We are introduced to Elyese Dukie, who is alone in her prison cell on death row. She tells us about her husband, and her girlfriend, and her relationships with other women in the prison. She also tells us about John Hayes, her other, more violent persona. It seems that Elyese finds it easier to accept the murders when she feels like John has committed them.

Roslyn has written a great piece of work. The dark and poetic language is made even more appealing by her fantastic performance as Elyese. She effortlessly draws people in, talking directly to the audience, listening to everyone’s reactions. Especially as her persona changes to the very charismatic John, we hang onto his every word, eager for him to like us too. But Roslyn is quick to remind us that Elyese is still there. There is a beautiful moment when she remembers her child and giving him up for adoption, and the we see a glimpse of the real Elyese hidden behind her conflicting personas.

The State vs John Hayes is tremendous from start to finish. Roslyn is extremely engaging and delivers a captivating performance. She has created a psychological roller coaster headed by a charismatic murderer who easily manipulates the audience. 60 minutes is not long enough for this show. It left me wanting more.

Playground @ Old Red Lion Theatre

Enid Blyton’s books may have been the inspiration for Playground, but luckily knowledge of the Famous Five is not necessary for enjoying this play. The underlying mystery is really just a way for writer Peter Hamilton to use a set of characters to explore social problems. The play discusses mental health, perceptions of individuals in society, and the idea of community. This does sound too heavy for a night out at the pub, but the dark comedy employed by the writer allows these subjects to be looked at successfully.

Christopher James Barley as DC Birch

Christopher James Barley as DC Birch

Playground is set in Victoria Park, where murders have taken place. The victims, all children, have been decapitated, and the murderer has left a Famous Five book on each of the bodies. Detectives Mitchell and Birch (played by Dan MacLane and Christopher James Barley respectively) are in charge of solving the case, and in this process, the audience meets five characters who could potentially have carried out the killings. Walthamstow lad Stuart (Simon Every), and posh communist Tamsin (Laura Garnier) know each other from Bow Road Psychiatric Unit, and visit the park frequently. So does Danny (Richard Fish), a former psychiatric patient and current night cleaner at Canary Wharf, and Carolyn (Josie Ayers), who he saves from an attempted suicide. Then there’s Bella (Sarah Quist), who runs the cafe at the park, and is dishonest about her past. When Danny decides to form a book club inviting everyone to join, his choice of books to read might hold a clue to who amongst the group is the murderer.

Josie Ayres and Richard Fish, Playground, Old Red Lion Theatre (c) Cameron S Harle

Josie Ayres as Carolyn and Richard Fish as Danny

Fish is brilliant as Danny and presents his strangeness with likeability, making him an eerie yet endearing character. Barkey’s cross-dressing Birch is hilarious, and the relationship between him and MacLane’s Mitchell is never really fully disclosed, which I really liked. It allows for the audience to make up their own mind about what they are seeing. Garnier’s character Tamsin became quite grating after a while, and I found myself rolling my eyes every time she spoke in the second half of the play. I could have done with less talk of “revolution”, and more talk of racial tensions, which Hamilton very briefly touches on with the character Stuart, who we find out was amongst an EDL protest once. There was scope to expand on this I think, especially as the play is set in East London, but fails to include more than one BAME actor on stage.

Laura Garnier as Tamsin

The set is interesting on first observation. Director and designer Ken McClymont has used scaffolding to create a climbing frame, complete with an old tyre swig. The structure forefronts the large Enid Blyton book covers surrounding it, so the audience are constantly reminded of the mystery unfolding. Juxtaposing the darkness of the content with the brightly coloured covers does highlight the grossness of the murdered children, which is also emphasised by Quist’s Bella repeatedly singing the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. She has a beautiful voice so I loved every time she appeared in the shadows.

The characters are interesting, and the play is dark and hilarious, which is what makes it so entertaining. In terms of a conclusion? I have no idea, but what I do know is it was an enjoyable evening of theatre which I would recommend.