Category Archives: Musical

REVIEW: School of Rock – London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

What you get it you cross a film from 2003, one of musical theatreland’s legends plus add in a little piece of youthful magic – School of Rock!

Based on the 2003 film that starred Jack Black, overly enthusiastic guitarist Dewey Finn gets thrown out of his band and finds himself in desperate need of work. Posing as a substitute music teacher at an elite private elementary school, he exposes his students to the hard rock gods he idolizes and emulates — much to the consternation of the uptight principal. As he gets his privileged and precocious charges in touch with their inner rock ‘n’ roll animals, he imagines redemption at a local Battle of the Bands.

Set at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the theatre has more a studio feel than an auditorium, but this brings everyone closer to the sound. I was fortunate enough to get the ticket lottery for the evening performance, meaning I paid £30 for a pair of tickets valued at £160 – and good seats too!

Craig Gallivan stars as Dewey (he was Stella’s son Luke in the Sky 1 show), and for those who weren’t aware, the boy can sing, plus has the Jack Black act to a tee. As for the kids, what can be said? Very talented musicians in their own right – plus having proud parents – one of which was sat in front of me!



Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes would not be the first two people I’d associate with a production like this, but underneath, every part of the production is polished. From the stage direction, the sound, and the performances.

Generally speaking, musicals based on films can be a little fractious with songs crowbarred in, but School Of Rock bucks this idea with having a plot and musical cues to suit.

It’s the perfect way to introduce children into the theatre, it’s entertaining with an all rounded quality cast and production. You’d be put into detention if you didn’t consider School of Rock as your next London musical adventure!


🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW Aladdin the Musical #London 27th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

A little bit of Disney magic, one of musical theatres most loved lyricists & composers, and some of the most iconic musical sequences in animation history all add up to Aladdin the musical in London.

Nearing the end of it’s time at the Prince Edward Theatre, you still have a matter of weeks to catch this before 24th August 2019.

In the town of Agrabah, Princess Jasmine is feeling hemmed in by her father’s desire to find her a royal groom. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s right-hand man, Jafar, is plotting to take over the throne. When Jasmine sneaks out one evening, she forms an instant connection with Aladdin, a charming street urchin and reformed thief. After being discovered together, Aladdin is sentenced to death, but Jafar saves him by ordering him to fetch a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. There’s a lamp, and where there’s a Genie, and once Aladdin unwittingly lets this one out, anything can happen!

It’s everything you could expect from a Disney musical, although it took a few songs for the sound to flow through the theatre. There was a tendency for it to be a little bit panto at times, but generally speaking I was entertained all the way through.



Aladdin played by Matthew Croke might be a reformed thief, but Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, stole the show. The set pieces of Whole new world, Friend Like Me, and Prince Ali all make this one incredible production. The staging and the ensemble sounded brilliant, but only thing that stops me giving these five stars is some parts of the singing felt a little “screechy”. Maybe that’s just my opinion but it didn’t spoil what was a magical flight on a magic carpet ride.



It closes at the end of August to make way for the other Disney masterpiece that is Mary Poppins, so you’ve got limited time to enjoy some Arabian Nights.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW: Waitress #London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes


Back in 2018 visiting New York for a few days I happened to chance upon Waitress. The main reason for this being the theatre was 50 metres away from our hotel (honesty being the best policy I believe). That aside, it also had an extra bonus in that Sara Bareilles – the composer & lyricist was appearing as Jenna.

If you don’t know much about Waitress, it was a quirky little film from 2007, written by the late Adrienne Shelly and starred Keri Russell in the lead role. It was bought by Fox Searchlight pictures for about $6 million, and went on to make $16 million, winning plaudits along the way.



It tells the story of a young woman trapped in a little town, a loveless marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress, who falls into the next trap of an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynaecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.

It began in London earlier this year with Katharine McPhee (American Idol runner up) in the starring role.

Staging wise it’s like nothing you’ll have seen before. There’re not the effects like Wicked, or Frozen, but in its own way, the Adelphi Theatre is a small venue and that adds to the cosiness of the musical. It’s a little piece of small town USA in the heart of London town (plus the smells of pie resonate throughout the foyer and bar areas).

Musically, it feels right – with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles. It has a country contemporary feel that oozes emotion with each note. Before seeing it in NY, I’d not heard any of the score, but once was enough and it left me wanting more – so much so, upon arriving back in the UK I bought the original cast album and Sara’s album of songs from the musical. And since it’s been a regular playlist in my car.

It did start a little rusty, but within a few numbers, you could feel the production spring to life.

As the lead, Katherine McPhee brings to the role something special. I’d go as far and say that her “She used to be mine” is the best I’ve heard in any musical production.

Marisha Wallace as Becky (a role once taken by Keala Settle – her that now is part of The Greatest Showman), together with Laura Baldwin as Dawn provide the perfect harmony and backing to the main story, and both excel with their own story arcs.

David Hunter as Dr Pomatter plays Jenna’s love interest with brilliant comic timing and voice, as does Jack McBrayer as Ogie for Dawn. His “Never ever getting rid of me” performance ranks as one of my favourite musical theatre moments, plus he’s the voice of Fx It Felix from WreckIt Ralph!

After seeing the NY production I did question whether would this work with UK audiences? The musical style is intrinsically American country – so would audiences in the UK buy into it? Simple answer, yes!

If you’re a fan of Sara Bareilles, the film Waitress, or a beautifully written musical that will send you away with a song in your heart, and the taste of pie in your belly, this is for you.


🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Review: Patrick Downes


NB. Katherine McPhee and Laura Baldwin will be ending their runs shortly, with Laura returning after the Summer.

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – Patrick Downes

Review:  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour® Dreamcoat – Wales Millennium Centre 14 May 2019

You’ll surely know the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour® Dreamcoat. If not…. where’ve you been? It’s a retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours.

From its origins in the late 60s to its revival in 1991 with Jason Donovan (then Phillip Schofield), this new touring production of Joseph certainly stands the test of time. It’s been one of my favourite musicals and that was only through listening to the 1991 cast recording, over and over. So, that aside. How does this fair?

Jaymi Hensley as Joseph is certainly a little powerhouse of a vocalist which belies his pop background of XFactor and Union J. 

Trina Hill as the Narrator guides the audience through with a voice of great stature for someone so diminutive, and Andrew Geater as Elvis, err, Pharaoh manages to steal the second act.

Special mention though to the other cast/ensemble as I can’t remember the previous tour in 2016 being so rounded like this, as for the children – on stage throughout both acts, just brilliant! There’s more to what you may know of Joseph and it’s certainly worth a few hours of your time seeing it on this current tour.  A perfect entry into the world of musical theatre for anyone of ages 8 – 98

I think you should not “Close every door” and just “Go go go” see Joseph!

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is on it’s UK Tour at at Wales Millennium Centre till 18th May 2019

Reviewer: Patrick Downes

® Technicolor is a registered trademark of the Technicolor Group of Companies

Review Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Rhys Payne

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Musical fans often snub Joseph for being like a school production but I challenge any musical fan to watch Jaymi Hensley in the title role and not be blown away. This production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Wales Millennium starred Jaymi Hensley as Joseph and at first, I was apprehensive. Jaymi is famously known for being one of the members of the English pop band Union J and sometimes, in my opinion, they cast famous pop stars just for them to be a famous face and to sell more tickets. However, this was not the case. Jaymi excelled at this role and really helped elevate the show. His acting helped perfectly balance the campiness and seriousness of the show with his exaggerated facial reactions to the audience and emotional portrayal of being reunited with friends. His singing was flawless. He posses an operatic style voice which at first I thought would be distracting but it actually helped showcase Jaymi’s talented without being distracting. In fact, I would say that this show contained the greatest rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’ that I have ever heard. My only issue with his singing was that at the end of the performance there was a ‘sing-a-long’ section and because Jaymi was such a fantastic singer that it made it somewhat difficult to sing along but that is a minor detail. With Jaymi’s inclusion of riffs and high notes that I think were added just for him, it helped elevate this show from its school production roots (which was what Joseph was written for) to high quality, West End ready level.

One of the problems I had from the first time I saw Joseph last year was the almost nonsensical setting of this musical. In last year’s version, we jump from the Wild West with “One More Angel” to France with “Those Cannan Days” and while this was fun to watch it did confuse me somewhat. With this year’s production however the staging and lights were used to suggest a theme rather than a location. Rather than being set in France for “Those Cannan Days” there was simply a illuminated Eiffel Tower on the background of the stage , which obviously was not supposed to look like a real-life in-person version of the tower, which served as a reminder of a French theme rather than stating this is where they are. The other thing that confused me the first time I saw this show was the character of Pharaoh as he appeared to be an Elvis impersonator. It was only after this year that I realised it was a play on the moniker of “The King.”

This year the pharaoh, played by Andrew Geater, was amazing. He looked similar to Elvis, he had his mannerisms nailed down and his impression was fantastic. The brothers in this musical are a vital part of the narrative as without them Joseph would not have ended up in Egypt. Within the show, the brothers also added to the comedy and fun of the show but also had fantastic choreography especially in Potiphar’s song titled “Potiphar” where they performed an intricate dance routine with poles which they used to create key objects in the song which was great to watch. All of the brothers were excellent dancers who combined the seriousness and campiness of each number. However, during “Benjamin’s Calypso” the brothers dressed and performed as calypso dancers. Some of the dancers did look a little uncomfortable with this dance number but it was barely visible, apart from this, they were fantastic. They were hilarious and great to watch. Something that was really interesting to see was the portrayal of Potiphars wife. She appeared on stage dressed as a ‘flapper’ and danced accordingly which was a really nice touch as within the story she is supposed to be ‘free spirited.’  At the beginning of the production during “Jacob and Sons” there is supposed to be inflatable sheep on the top of the stage however they did not inflate as they were supposed to and the members of the production had to sort them out. This was a small distraction for the audience.

Overall, I think the choice of costumes and colours worked perfectly together with the narrator in black and silver (with stars across her top) and the brothers, for the majority of the show, plain block colours. The use of colour reached its climax in the iconic image where Joseph is stood with the multi-coloured coat spread out across the stage. The posters and advertising for this show reflected the use of colour by using the raining drops of the rainbow which encapsulated the drama, colour, and the fun of the show. The designers of the advertisements must have thought about this and should be applauded. The show blended the tradition and history of Joseph while at the same time making it modern and the best performance of Joseph I have ever seen. I rate this production at 4 and a half stars.

Review Mata Hari’s Laughter Harem by Lois Arcari

Hosting a monthly comedy act with niche and alternative themes – dipping into the historical with Mata Hari’s harem and Franco’s dictatorship – Hoodenanny is a small club that’s sure to leave a big impression.

Sticking loosely to the theme with Flora Wheeler’s performance as Mata Hari and Emily Smith’s Marlene Deitrich, we were ushered in from the cosy but characteristically costly pub (with event tickets themselves a bargain £3, or £6 for VIP gifts shown below) we were then ushered into a cutting and chaotic night of burlesque and comedy.

The VIP goodies, inside and out

Aaron Hood, founder and MC, was impeccable at compering the night, managing to both steer and steal the show without taking away from any of his performers. Using the clown horn he was so besotted with, Hood ushered us in to the themes of debauchery, mental illness and dark humor that weaved through most of the performers on the night.

As much as his cynical wit landed with razor sharp precision, Hood deserves to be commended for his organisation and dedication. Not only is he a well established member of UEA’s own Headlights comedy club, but he’s fully comitted to his vision of alternative comedy.

“A safe and friendly space for edgeiness.”

At the time of reviewing, he’s also creating a Fringe showcase in Bury St Edmunds. This is a man with too much frantic talent to waste.

First up on the roster was Sussana T Jones, well known throughout Norwich as the singing comedian who’s appeared as up and coming talent on BBC Radio and Director of UEA’S side-splittingly Silly “Game of Thrones: The Pantomime.”

She started with her staple routine, singing a parody of teenage youtube musicians called “My eyeliner.”

Then she brought out a new song especially for the night – about dating as a nerd. Filled with zany puns and enough references to stuff a TARDIS, this was a great start to the night. It provided an odd proto-breather for the heavier – but slightly sharper material – to follow.

Helen of Norwich and Aaron Hood

Second up was Helen of Norwich, who opened her set with some deadpan comments about her age.

Despite her self deprecation, she brought the audience immediately on board. She deployed her experience with the NHS and CBT – though not quite the type we were expecting, and thrived on a comedic style that was personally honest but full of comedic midirection.

Her nervousness was at times palpable – fitting for a set based on anxiety – but her minor struggle with confidence in no way undermined her as a performer. Her understated brand of subtle but sparkling dark humor held its own amongst much louder and more acerbic comedians. This proves she’s a comedian to watch out for.

Ciara Jack also based her set around mental illness, but expanded politically to joke about immigration on class. A lovably brash performer, she shone when using characters and impressions.

Pope Lonergan was a stand out of the night. A booming comedian with riotous jokes, he sealed and intensified the theme of dark humor. Again drawing on incredible personal anecdotes – how did he get to them, let alone survive the tale? – His anarchic sincerity was a real delight. He also posed a question that will now stay on Norwich’s lips forever.

“What would YOU do if you broke a woodlouse’s pregnancy sack?”

A night of big questions Indeed.

The evening ended on a high note with a burlesque performance by Zinnia Rose, who captivated the audience with sultry dance moves to Beyonce and Shakira’s beautiful night. Despite being referenced consistently, I felt this act might have felt more cohesive if the Mata Hari theme was expanded throughout the night.

However, the sacrifice of theme did nothing to hinder such a brilliant night – and the upcoming theme, “Austistic Anarchy” seems much more likely to be woven throughout the night. (With many of the club’s performers having autism themselves and referencing it in their sets.)

Overall this was a truly dynamic night and has established Hoodenanny as an almost unrivaled gem in Norwich’s comedy crown. With an inclusive and energetic vibe, performers with great careers ahead and all for less than a pint at the bar, I’d encourage everyone to make the trip down and have a hoot at Hoodenanny.

Review The Bodyguard, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

All images credit Paul Coltas

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Before watching ‘The Bodyguard’, at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff I was very excited. The songs are many of my favourites and so I knew it would be an enjoyable performance, but this show did not disappoint. At first, I thought it would be similar to Motown in which the songs are great and popular, and people would sing along to, but the narrative is somewhat less important, but I could not have been more wrong. In fact, I would consider ‘The Bodyguard’ as one of the best all-round productions that I have seen. Having some of my ‘guilty pleasure’ songs included in this production was the icing on the cake.  The last time I saw Alexander Burke in a production was in ‘Sister Act,’ which I felt she didn’t suit but this powerful ballad-based character was a lot more suited to Alexander and her singing style.

The production’s opening was a striking shadow-projected scene, which had loud sound effects, which caused audible gasps from the audience. This was a fantastic way to grab audience attention in the first few minutes of the show. It was easy to spot that this scene would be book-ending the whole production and a similar scene would take place at the end of the show. This is the first time, in my experience, that this type of structure is used which made me keep the image in my head to see how the plot would lead to it again in the end. This meant the entire time I was thinking about this opening scene, which was not a distraction in any sense but would be considered an effective opening scene. The opening number however was flawless. The production values of staging, light and pyros was superb and the dancing was incredible. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I instantly drew comparisons of the character ‘Rachel Marron’ both are super successful artists, costumes show similarities to one another and the ‘performance’ of their songs (especially this one) were of the highest quality. However, I believe that this performance topped the Beyoncé performances I have seen live and this number could have easily been a show in itself. It would not have been out of place as a concert/performance in somewhere like the 02 Arena. The one small drawback to this number was, Alexander Burke, who played Rachel Marron, is an incredible singer and actor but her dancing is the weakest of the three (all of which are obviously of a high level but her dancing is not quite as good as the other two) which could be noticed through the big dance numbers such as this one and also during the opening number there was a short scene of dialogue which took place. Due to everything that was happening on the stage (lights, dancers, music etc.) I missed a lot of this dialogue which was clearly not what the directors would have wanted. The bold opening scene and awe-inspiring opening number contrasted each other perfectly and ‘set the scene’ for the rest of the production. This show alternates between these amazing, popular songs and tense dramatic scenes, which the opening sequences set up for the rest of the show beautifully.

Many of the supporting characters in this production were very relatable and believable which is important for productions like this. The young boy who plays Fetcher was an incredible dancer, which was shown in one of the dance rehearsals scenes towards the beginning of the musical. He was amazing and I would say upstaged some of the other dancers. They used the young boy to perform lifts and flips which obviously would have been easier due to the size of the actor. Although, during this scene the character crawled through a table which I believe did not quite fit the rest of the choreography, but this is a minor detail. This character would have primarily involved to provide an ‘awww’ factor as he is the young son of Rachel who gets caught up in the events of the stalker. This did build the sympathy toward Rachel and ‘hatred’ toward the stalker. The stalker (played by Phil Atkinson) was a key character although he is barely on the stage, even when he wasn’t on stage his presence could still be felt. When he was on stage when he is silent and is in almost darkness, which was an extremely effective way to build tension, and it is only in act two that he speaks. The whole presentation (including casting) of this character was perfect and this character-built fear from the audience. Although it was a bit strange that this character spent a lot the time without a top on.

One of the most enjoyable scenes in the whole show was a karaoke scene not because of dramatic staging, of phenomenal singing or whatever it was just a fun scene. It opened with three girls drunkenly singing ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ it was really funny and I felt like I have seen the same scene in real life. A group of girls singing a popular song like that in karaoke while ‘butchering’ the song, but the difference was in this show these actresses were doing it intentionally. This seemed to be a common theme in this production. Later in this scene, Frank Farmer, the bodyguard (played by Benoit Marechal) goes onto karaoke to take on Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ which I have personally been tempted to do but never have had the guts to due to the power of the song. However, Frank combated this by ‘talking’ the song, which had the whole audience rolling in laughter. Which was really nice to see the softer side of frank. This scene was ended by the iconic song ‘I Have Nothing’ which was beautifully sung by Alexander. Which was obviously sang to and about Frank as we found out they have an attraction between the two of them.

The final scene of this act was in a club. It revolved around Frank and Tony Scibeli, the security guard (played by Craig Berry) protecting Rachel from any potential threats in the club. In this scene the spotlight illuminates the stalker. This meant my eyes were following the stalker’s track around the stage, which only added to the tension and drama. IThis scene looked more like it took place in a nightclub due to the flashing lights and music rather than a normal club but apart from this the scene was well staged and executed.

The beginning of Act Two had a big dance number to the song ‘I’m Every Woman’, which is a song I know very well. The dancers in this scene were excellent and the acrobatics were a spectacle to watch. However, at certain points in the number there were movements that were supposed to be done at the same time and were actually out of time with one another. But I really enjoyed this opening, as its ‘over-the-top ness’ was a perfect way to regain the excitement after the intermission. There was a few people in the audience singing along with the music which I personally find great as it shows they are enjoying the song etc., but I know some people are against this, so this is worth noting.

In one scene the staging changed from a luxurious mansion to a log cabin. I really liked the concept of the staging as a log cabin suggest warmth and safety, which was exactly what it was supposed to do within the story. The contrasts between these two setting also helped shift the focus from Rachel and her fame/money etc. to family. This is added to be a heart-warming rendition of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ between Nicky Marron, Rachel and Fletcher. Fletcher however did struggle with this song as it is a complex rhythm and strange vocals but as he was a child this was somewhat ignored. The lights and effects were continued to be used to make the Stalker actually terrifying as he appears from nowhere at points and disappears quickly after.

Probably the biggest and best number in the entire production is the classic ‘I Will Always Love You.’ This song was kept right until the end to act as an emotional tribute to everything that happened throughout the narrative. As the earlier ‘rendition’ by Frank in karaoke, was comical this final number was show stopping. The staging, costume and lights worked perfectly to add to the emotional nature of the song and Alexander’s vocals were outstanding. She did change some of the vocal trills from the original, which were fantastic. During this song there was a montage projected onto the stage of the Rachel and Frank and their story so far. I found this to be somewhat distracting from the song and could have done without it, but the montage was not a cheesy and unnecessary  it was heartfelt and emotional. After all this happened the entire cast sung ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’ This involved solos from different members of the cast, including the Stalker (which was a nice inclusion in my opinion), dance sequences and ‘party’ lighting. This was when the audience were encouraged to sing and dance. The two songs (I Will Always Love You and I Wanna Dance with Somebody) obviously contrasted each other and helped cement the pairing of drama and fun.

This production was well thought out and planned. Everything from music, lighting, costumes to props used all worked perfectly together, which was really nice to watch. The production aspects of the show were fantastic and one of the best I have seen. Alexander Burke’s portrayal of the iconic role is on par with Whitney’s (which is high praise) and this a show not to miss.

Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster, Battersea Arts Centre by Tanica Psalmist

The production Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is triumphantly spectacular! featuring an abundance of sensory flows from different types of beatboxers’ who all ecstatically project an aura of an overwhelming system, which conveys power and pain. Compellingly taking our ears through motions as their voices effortlessly, vigorously exploit numerous of in-depth frequencies from low to high simultaneously. Several of the beatboxers fluidity hypnotised us through their radio waves, leaving memorisation as they mind-blowingly touched on elements affiliated with political, mental and emotional conflict.

The beatboxers collectively integrated upbeats. In beat we witnessed a fusion of music genres from their voices alone, whether it be House, Funk, Blues, Motown or Pop this crew had it down to the ‘T’. Their music chords impressively merged heavy deep drums, string instruments and much more.

Incorporating Mary Shelley’s original, which was reimagined with soundscapes, sonic trickery and songs. To the counts within their musical flow, their vocal chords went to the rhythms of 1,2,3,4 but automatically speeded up to their heartbeats chanting 2,4,6,8. This soon boomed to a higher frequency as they began harmonising, synchronising, fluctuating and exploiting various other musical genres. The energy in the space became immense, especially when the space effectively transitioned into the vibes of an electrifying gig. 

Frankenstein had six acts in this play, all playing to their individual strengths whether it be singers, rappers, poetic essences and of course beatboxers; Frankenstein had it all! This production visually moved brains, you could feel the creatives hearts race, pumping to the counts of 10, 20, 30, and 40. Their sounds enhanced colourful patterns of different worlds colliding; projecting cinematic sounds of life and power whilst they embraced an emotional energy, triggered by a world we all know so well, as we become witnesses to the power of monsters all around us, strengthened by voices empowering them. 


The light moods had sparkles, gloss and smoke, the colours resembled energy, fire and enjoyment. This factor helped increase vibrations of radio-waves as they got even deeper into how to make a monster. The artistic designs were radiating meaning you couldn’t help but glance with amazement! 

Overall, Frankenstein gives you high adrenaline. A breathtaking, unforgettable and exceptionally enjoyable production! A fantastic experience for all to see, featuring beat box battles, audience immersive orchestra and childrens participation! A must see meticulous show with a talented team, you will not be disappointed!

Review ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ Re-Live by Kiera Sikora

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Re- Live’s new theatre show ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ is a moving, courageous composition of sadness, truth, celebration and sacrifice.

It begins at St Fagan’s Museum entrance where we are taken on a welcoming walk to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, listening to various accounts of the thoughts and memories of the people connected to Oakdale. They tell us of the beauty of ‘devouring books’ from the library which was a rarity then, the joy of choc-ice treats and how Oakdale invited a ‘thirst for knowledge’ in the Institute.


We then reach the Oakdale’s Workmen’s Institute where (after a lovely cuppa tea) we are thrown into a World War I Victory Ball in 1919. The bunting is up, the tea is flowing, the Bara Brith is out and we are entertained with song, story and striking truths of what it was to be a soldier, a friend, a woman and a mother during The First World War. We are shown the thrill of the beginning of war, and the heartache it created during a time when so much was unknown medically about the after affects of battle and sacrifice.


The piece moves through dialogue, solo performance, touching physical imagery and choral singing with a nod for the audience to join in on a few wartime tunes. And there’s the beauty of Re-Live right there. Yes, it’s a show, a performance, but it’s a cwtch too. A really important, poignant, ‘so glad to be home’ kind of cwtch. The cast open their arms to you, smile at you, pour their hearts out to you and allow you to feel something about how they feel and have felt. Re- Live’s mission is to work with communities and to tell stories and truths from their lives and ‘Y Dychweliad’ is a beautiful shower of these things. These stories, this history, the effect war has on people around us and still has to this day are subjects that we must talk about. If we don’t talk about these things, if we don’t remember the history of our times,  and the affects it has on us still- will they be lost? Will we learn? Will future generations know these wonderful, war time songs, even?



Karin Diamond and the team have created a gorgeous concoction of story, song, music and poetry and a beautiful memory for all that see the show. The production ends as fuelled as it begins, with a personal poem ‘Mother Wales’ written by one of the cast- which makes your heart beam. The thankful, heartfelt, emotional response at the post show discussion is unforgettable. Talks from the cast about their own experiences, and how much support we must continue to provide for our Veterans is integral.

One of the cast said ‘ Once you leave for war, and go over there, coming back is.. alien. You’re petrified. You come home. But you’re never the same.’ Reading through the Oakdale information book, one Veteran writes (of working with Re-Live) ‘The project has saved me because it’s given me something to look forward to, it’s given me a purpose again. It helps me control my anxiety too. This is the one place I can come where I know I won’t be judged.’

And that’s Re-Live. Sharing words and feelings from people, to people and for people. With the utmost care, gratitude and heart. ‘Keep the Homes Fires Burning’, indeed. 



‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ runs from 14-16 March/Mawrth, 

Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, St Fagan’s National Museum of History/ Sefydliad Y Gweithwyr Oakdale, Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru

Review Follies, National Theatre By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If you are a fan of my reviews, you will know that my favourite production is one with no interval. I believe to be fully involved, the interruption of ice cream and loo breaks seriously disrupts this immersion.

However, when you are told a production is 2 hours 15 minutes, no interval, suddenly that lovely wish feels sour, daunting and worrying.

Friends who had previously seen Follies, assured me that I wouldn’t notice this – that it is so good that the time will fly by.

And I am happy to report, that some of this is true.

Follies is a story about the end of an era. Show girls are taken back to the good old days of their youth, in a ruined building that was once a bustling theatre, admired by all. Now it is dilapidated, being knocked down. And this is the last hurrah!
The now matured performers are haunted by their younger selves – dressed in their glam and changing of time outfits, looking upon their future selves in sometimes disapproval, sometimes admiration, and sometimes awe.

It’s right to say that you go through Follies and the need for an interval isn’t present. You feel involved and interested in the action, but for a theatre production, while it has it moments of quirkiness, of enjoyment, some lovely songs and some impeccable acting, it feels like a story where nothing much happens.

I really enjoyed being able to see their past selves – their youth. The glitz, the glamour, the femininity; all makes the showgirl/burlesque girl in me scream with delight. It is the quintessential 1930’s/1940’s era and it shows in the style and elegance of the performers. The current day being the 70’s, costumes and styles have changed and it’s easy to see how good the casting is and how true to the eras they keep to.

The dancing is enjoyable and typical musical based. The songs are belted with every breath. No one holds back. And the character of Phyllis, played by Janie Dee is by far my favourite and executed with great hilarity and almost becomes a bitter reminder of myself.

Follies is fun, it is enjoyable, but I wouldn’t come away saying it was anything spectacular or breath taking. If you are looking for a exciting and typical musical, something to sit back and enjoy a G&T with, then this is it.