Review: Hoard – Rediscovered

Theatrical archaeology meets real archaeology in Hoard – Rediscovered as the New Vic Theatre revisit their Staffordshire Hoard Festival for the streaming age 

“The archaeologists have of course found no evidence of dragons”

After a weekend immersed in the plummy accents of The Crown, it was wonderfully refreshing to counter-balance that with the everyday cadences of blessedly much more regular folk in Hoard – Rediscovered. Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre has a rich tradition of verbatim work and with this characterful addition to theatre’s necessary shift to the streaming world, there’s quite the digital treasure trove in store. 

Hoard – Rediscovered sees the New Vic revisit their 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival, a celebration of new writing focused on the remarkable discovery of a mighty hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in a field in 2009. Written and directed by New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins, Unearthed is a verbatim docu-drama that shifts the attention away from the thousands of pieces of treasure to focus on the stories of the real people whose lives it impacted. Continue reading “Review: Hoard – Rediscovered”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 


I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here


10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

10 questions for 10 years – Tom Wells

How many of us can say we’ve inspired some branded condoms?! Find out more as Tom Wells becomes the first person to answer 10 questions for 10 years

From Me, As A Penguin to The Kitchen Sink to Jumpers for Goalposts and much more besides, Tom Wells has perfected the art of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. His wry observations and relatable characterisations lead to an often profound beauty that makes him, for my money, one of our most important playwrights, LGBT+ or otherwise.

Review: Drip, Bush Theatre

Tom Wells and Matthew Robins’ sweetly wonderful one-man musical Drip returns to the Bush Theatre

“Eat some toast, then eat more toast
(I love toast)”

In events I can’t imagine being repeated anytime soon, I was the nominated ‘audience hunk’ for this performance of Drip., and far be it from me to review my own performance but never has a wind-chime been tinkled so beautifully… This kind of light-touch audience interaction is threaded throughout the show and really helps to set the mood of slightly bemused wonder.

Tom Wells’ Drip popped up briefly in the library at the Bush Theatre last year, played Edinburgh over the summer and returns to W12 in the studio where its idiosyncratic charms prove well suited. A one-man musical, we follow 15 year old Liam as he makes a presentation to his school assembly in an attempt to win the annual Project Prize and more importantly, win back his friend Caz, Continue reading “Review: Drip, Bush Theatre”

Review: Drip (Reading), Bush Theatre

“Dive, dive, dive right in
Dive, dive, dive, dive, dive right in…”

On the one hand, I think I’d like to see Tom Wells really surprise us with something completely different. But on the other, he does what he does so bloody well that I kinda never want him to stop. Drip sees him playing with form, as it is a one-man musical but thematically, we’re once again in the world he has explored so affectingly in plays such as Me As A Penguin, The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers for Goalposts

Our protagonist is Liam, a 15 year old from South Shields who has moved to Hull cos his mum is seeing a guy named Barry who lives there. Making fast friends with Caz, the ‘other queer student’ at school, he throws himself into helping her with the annual project prize presentation that she is so desperate to win. Only thing is, she’s planning Hull’s first synchronised swimming team and Liam can’t swim…  Continue reading “Review: Drip (Reading), Bush Theatre”

Review: Folk, Watford Palace

“Sing me something holy, something wholly inappropriate”

One day, Tom Wells will start writing about something other than misfits in the East Riding of Yorkshire but until he does, we’re still being blessed with minor-key gems like Folk (after Jumpers for Goalposts, The Kitchen Sink, and Me, As A Penguin), reaching the end of its tour here in this co-production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre , Hull Truck Theatre and Watford Palace Theatre.

From the front room of her Withernsea home, Irish nun Winnie has been subtly changing the world for those around her. Her sweary, spoon-playing ways have long been complemented by Stephen, a mournful musical middle-aged man who counts her as his only friend and when the teenage Kayleigh comes crashing into their lives, it is music that proves the force that slowly bonds them together. Continue reading “Review: Folk, Watford Palace”

Review: Dick Whittington, Lyric Hammersmith

“Are you fond of cake?
‘Definitely, I’m northern’”

How come there haven’t been any pantomime reviews on here this year?
I’m not going to go to any pantos this year.

Oh yes you are.
Oh no I’m not. Well, maybe one or two. This one is written by Tom Wells after all.

He’s behind you.
No he isn’t, he was sat in the stalls last night though and we were in the circle.

Pardon me,

(thigh slap) DICK!
Oh I see, the panto was Dick Whittington and that was the audience had to shout whenever Andy Rush came on stage, fnarr fnarr.

Keep it clean please, that’s my job. BAPS!
Yes, that was the dame’s name. Stewart Wright wasn’t half bad actually – his Beyoncé…Knowles joke is still making giggle at the thought of it.

Dick Whittington has a cat doesn’t he?
Yes. And some other friends – trainee fairy Bauble and a budding London mayoral candidate called Sooz

So not exactly traditional then?
No, but that in itself has become the new tradition at the Lyric Hammersmith and after something of a shaky beginning last year, Wells feels very much at home here. DICK!

Oh, let it go.
Actually no, they didn’t perform that despite going to the North Pole. There’s a good mix of new and classic pop though.

Did they have sweets?
Not for people in the circle.

Did it snow?
Not on people in the circle.

Did you enjoy being in the circle?
I did actually – safe from audience interaction and far away enough to get some real satisfaction from bellowing DICK! And BAPS! without traumatising too many children.

Would you recommend it?
I surely would. Freed from the baggage of star casting, you get the real sense of company camaraderie here bolstered by a cracking young supporting ensemble. There’s a genuine sense of real fun, a healthy dollop of barely-disguised smut, plenty of Wellsian touches to make it unmistakeably his work (truly, Hull becoming City of Culture in 2017 is the world’s gift to him), and there’s a Bon Jovi singalong.

DICK! indeed.

Running time: 2 hour 20 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £2
Booking until 3rd January

Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA

“I got us some chocolate body paint…we ended up having it on toast”

Just a quickie(ish) for this as a dicky tummy meant I had to leave at the interval but I wanted to make mention of the cast in case any of them end up super-famous. Tom Wells has quickly rocketed up the list of must-see playwrights in recent years, something kickstarted largely by the 2011 success of The Kitchen Sink (although Me As A Penguin was the first time I dipped in the Wells), and so it is little surprise to see drama schools like LAMDA getting in on the act. This production of The Kitchen Sink forms part of their showcase this year and in lieu of new Wells work, a trip down the Talgarth Road was organised.

And whilst I wish I could say I liked it, the first half never really managed to grab me. Stephen Unwin’s production here lacked the vital spark that brought Tamara Harvey’s for the Bush to such vivid life, plodding along a little too much rather than surfing the ripples and waves of everyday living. The subtleties of Wells’ writing and his inimitable voice of extraordinary ordinariness failed to really shine through here – although his observational gifts means there’s many a one-liner that lives in the memory, ripped jeans, couscous, Dolly Parton’s nipples…nothing is safe but crucially, everything feels authentic. Continue reading “Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA”