Tag Archives: Cardiff

INTERVIEW Tracy-Ann Oberman for The Merchant of Venice 1936

Below is a syndicated interview with Tracy-Ann Oberman for The Merchant of Venice 1936, which is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 31 October – 4 November. More information on the show and how to book tickets here.

“The women in my family were as tough as nails.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman is herself no stranger to tough cookies – she’s a formidable actor on stage and screen. But here she is speaking about her great-grandmother and aunts, women with nicknames like Machine-Gun Molly and Sarah Portugal. They came to London from antisemitic eastern Europe at the turn of the last century, and despite all odds managed to build a life and make a living.

Oberman’s family history helped unlock Shakespeare’s enduringly controversial play, The Merchant of Venice. Her relatives survived the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 – a little-known event in London’s East End, when the Jewish community was targeted by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosely. Mosley’s blackshirts marched through the area, only to be confounded when the non-Jewish community stood by their Jewish neighbours.

In The Merchant of Venice 1936, Shakespeare’s harsh plot snaps brilliantly into place against this backdrop. Shylock, its anti-hero, is a Jewish moneylender who becomes entangled in the affairs of wealthy non-Jews and suffers terribly for it. In this new version, Oswald Mosely inspires Antonio, the merchant who takes a loan from Shylock and offers a seemingly fanciful penalty for defaulting: a pound of flesh. The heiress Portia becomes “a beautiful glacial Mitford type, awful” – her famous courtroom speech about “the quality of mercy” emerges as an act of hypocrisy rather than humanity. And Shylock changes sex, played by Oberman as a single mother, fiercely committed to her independence and her daughter. “I have one daughter,” she says – “it’s an intense relationship!”

Oberman is an impressively versatile actor – diamond sharp on stage at the RSC and National Theatre, in comedies like Friday Night Dinner and Toast of London, and as Dirty Den’s
nemesis Chrissie Watts in EastEnders. Yet playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice was never on her radar – growing up, she says, “the play always fascinated and repulsed me.”

Reclaiming the play from a Jewish perspective has proved a transformative experience. It is directed by Brigid Larmour, who recently stepped down as artistic director of Watford Palace Theatre: the pair of them have become, says Oberman, “walking encyclopaedias of this world.” They assembled a strong company of actors – “We call ourselves the Cable Street Collective!” says Oberman. Ray Coulthard’s sneering Antonio and Hannah Morrish’s icy Portia are chilly foils to this ardent Shylock. The result is painfully funny, genuinely upsetting – and unexpectedly moving as the events of the play meld with the heightened drama of the Battle of Cable Street.

Having sold out in Watford and Manchester, the production now embarks on an extended tour. “We’ve had lots of people crying and we get standing ovations,” says Oberman, reflecting on why the show has struck such a chord with spectators. “Whilst they might not have liked my Shylock, they certainly understood why she wants that pound of flesh. She stands in the courtroom with her handbag, with everything stacked against her. A lot of people know that feeling – believing the law is on their side, but discovering it’s only on the side of people that have power.”

This production sat in Oberman’s head for years, as she researched and planned and waited for lockdowns to pass. But now that it has met an audience, what has surprised her? “The thing that surprised me most was the court case,” she considers. “Just how powerful it was to see this woman backed into a corner by all these men, with the palpable hatred and misogyny. It was electric – you could cut the atmosphere in the auditorium with a knife. That was a revelation.”

Playing Shylock as a woman, she insists, isn’t about softening the character – “I didn’t want to make her a victim or change her role in the story” – but, she adds, “maybe I underestimated the impact of a female Shylock. There are a couple of very shocking moments that really upset audiences. In an early scene Antonio comes to borrow money, and Shylock describes him spitting on her and kicking her like a dog – when that behaviour is directed at a woman, it heightens the antisemitism. I think people also see a woman with her rage and anger. She loses her daughter, her money – she loses everything. And when you tell somebody that they’re a monster for long enough, they become that monster.”

The production vividly summons a febrile moment in British history. “My dream is that the battle of Cable Street will be taught as part of the British civil rights movement,” Oberman says. “Mosley had been sending his blackshirts down into Cable Street smashing doors, breaking windows, attacking synagogues and people on the streets, putting up the most horrific leaflets straight out of Hitler’s playbook. But my great grandmother always reminded me that their neighbours – their Irish neighbours, the Afro-Caribbean community, the dockers, the working classes – all stood together. That was a beautiful moment.”

It is clearly immersed in history – but does this also feel like a show about the present? Absolutely, Oberman says. “At a time when we are looking at Britain’s involvement in colonialism and the slave trade, I think we also have to look at Britain’s flirtation with fascism. Oswald Mosley and King Edward VIII, both great friends of Hitler, came close to power – we dodged a bullet. The great message of the play is about the pulling together of all communities – we’re better together, we’re stronger together, especially at times of huge financial and political insecurity. The past shows us what happens when we look inwards: we become very nationalistic and try to pit minorities against each other. We have to be vigilant.”

Oberman doesn’t hide how much this project is personal to her – but it seems she’s not alone. “What has been very moving is how many people want to stay and talk at the end,” she says. That kind of conversations does the play provoke? “A lot of people talk about their own family’s immigrant experience. Young political people want to talk about the Battle of Cable Street, and people who’d never seen a Shakespeare about why they’d found it so accessible. One man came in with about 20 fascist newspapers from the 1930s that he’d found in his father’s loft, which we’ve used as part of our graphics.

There were big conversations: is the play antisemitic? Was Shakespeare? Lots of really interesting conversations.” Part of the impetus behind The Merchant of Venice 1936 was teachers telling Oberman they felt anxious about discussing this contentious play in their classrooms. So the production is accompanied by a prolific strand of education work, alongside the activist group Stand Up to Racism. The team have been into schools and created a pack to support teachers. “We’ve also created an online world which people can look at before or after seeing the play. It’s an incredible resource talking about the play, the 1930s, the history of antisemitism and racism, Oswald Mosley, everything you could want.”

It’s still rare to see a woman standing dead centre in a Shakespeare production – though Oberman tells me, “I can honestly say that when I went into this, it was never with an ego about playing Shylock, it was about wanting to tell the story. I just put my soul into it.” And has it been the experience she hoped? “Every single bit of it has been a complete joy. It’s been more than a piece of theatre – for me, it’s been a mission. And it lived up to all my expectations.”

Interview Credit: David Jays

INTERVIEW Adam Bailey for Jac and the Beanstalk (New Theatre)

The days are getting shorter and the nights are drawing in and that means one thing: the New Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime is coming, and this year’s is gonna be alriiiiiiiii. Jac and the Beanstalk is the New’s latest festive shindig to sprinkle a little Welsh magic over the Very British artform that is the panto, and Get the Chance’s Barbara Hughes-Moore sat down with the actor bringing the titular adventurer to life: Adam Bailey, fresh from London’s West End who’s starred in the likes of Jersey Boys and The Book of Mormon.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Thank you for speaking with me today, Adam. Tell us a little bit about Jac and the Beanstalk

What a brilliant panto – I can’t wait to get started. I grew up in Cardiff and it’s going to be a really special thing to be able to come back to the New Theatre.

Could you share some of your memories of the New Theatre?

I’ve been doing shows here since I was a teenager! I did 4 or 5 amateur productions here, so it’s lovely to come back as a professional: it’s a real full circle moment!

And to be playing the titular character, too! Tell me about Jac: what makes him tick?

Well, I’m not sure because we don’t have a script yet! We start rehearsals end of November and that’s when we’ll start to explore all of that. It’s going to be such a fun light show. Panto is a total romp, so I can’t wait!

How did you get involved?

Just like any actor you audition, you sing and you act, and then you get the call.

There are some quite big names on the poster behind you, like Lesley Joseph and Mike Doyle. Have you met either of them yet?

I don’t think I have… although I’m terrible with names and faces!

Well, Mike is a master of disguise, so you could have met him and not known it!


What are your first memories of panto?

Although it wasn’t a family tradition, I’ve been to panto at the New Theatre as a child. My first proper memories were the first times I did panto when I was in training, during my econd and third year. it’s so much fun, and so important to the fibre of theatre in this country. It’s so many people’s first foray into theatre, so it’s a really wonderful thing.

You’ve performed both in pantomimes like Aladdin, and musical theatre like Jersey Boys in the West End. What are the differences between the two – or is it the same process?

It’s all theatre at the end of the day. It’s essentially your office job! But all the shows you do are slightly different and it’s the people who make it. There is something special about panto and how stylised it is, because there’s nothing else like it. It’s such a British staple and such a unique tradition.

What’s the secret to a good pantomime?

Good people. As long as you’ve got good people, then it’s gonna be brilliant and I’m excited to meet the cast.

Will it get Cardiff audiences on their feet?

Yes! Panto is a party at the end of the day and we want to get everyone up on their feet and feel good. We want to send everyone on their way singing.

How does the show incorporate Welsh references into Jac and the Beanstalk?

The clue is right here in the title: we’ve taken the ‘k’ out of ‘Jack’ for a start!

Will there be room to improv?

With certain characters, yes. Mike Doyle for example has done this over and over and there will be improv… but within reason! This isn’t a seven-hour-long panto: we’ve got to do two a day!

What about the costumes?

They’re nice and bright and colourful! What other shows let you get away with wearing things like this?

Do we have any special effects to look forward to?

I hear there’s a special effect with the giant, but it isn’t common knowledge so I can’t give anything away. You’ll just have to wait and see…

Anything else you can tease about the show?

The pantos here are always brilliant. So come along, enjoy yourself, sing along, have a dance: it’s gonna be great.

Jac and the Beanstalk is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 9 December 2023 – 7 January 2024. More information and how to book tickets here.

Review: Heathers the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Vicky Lord

“September 1st, 1989. Dear Diary…”

Veronica Sawyer, Heathers the Musical

Heathers the Musical, based on the 1988 black comedy film of the same name, follows Westerberg High’s Veronica Sawyer as just another nobody dreaming of a better day. But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers and her dreams of popularity may finally come true, mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.

Continue reading Review: Heathers the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Vicky Lord

REVIEW Love, Cardiff: 50 Years of Your Stories @ Sherman Theatre

Reviewed by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The cast of Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

The Sherman Theatre’s 50th year kicked off with an impressive triple bill of Ghost Cities, Romeo and Julie, and Imrie – but Love, Cardiff: 50 Years of Your Stories is truly the icing on this most stacked of birthday cakes.

The cast of Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

Written by the cast in collaboration with Paul Jenkins, Love, Cardiff is indeed a love letter to the city and the people who call it home. The show is directed by Francesca Pickard, who joined the Sherman this summer as its new Creative Engagement Coordinator, and makes an impressive company debut. The production is a culmination of 15 weeks in which Pickard and producer Mehdi Razi worked with members of five community groups in Cardiff, supporting them in identifying and conveying the stories they wanted to tell.

Richard Emerson and Simon Howells in Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

Their stories are framed by a narrative featuring the Theatre’s namesakes: the Sherman brothers, played by actors Richard Emerson and Simon Howells. Harry and Abe Sherman, whose parents were Eastern European Jewish immigrants, were businessmen and philanthropists who helped to transform Cardiff into what it is today. The show’s framing device has the brothers learning about how the Sherman Theatre – which in 2019 became Wales’ first theatre of sanctuary – has continued their philanthropic work by cultivating a safe space for all, told by those who have now taken up the baton.

The cast of Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

The cast includes members of Cardiff’s Deaf Community, Cathays Day Provision, Kurdish All Wales Association (KAWA), Waulah Cymru and the Welsh Ballroom Community. Their stories and performances, while at times tinged with tragedy, are authentic, joyous and fun – and resonate with the Sherman’s mission to tell local stories with global resonance.

The cast of Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

Vibrant, diverse, and joyful, Love, Cardiff serves as a timely reminder of why, on its golden anniversary, the Sherman Theatre shines brighter than ever.

Love Cardiff: 50 Years of Your Stories is playing at the Sherman Theatre on 17 and 19 August 2023. More information and how to book tickets here.

The cast of Love, Cardiff. Image credit: Chris Lloyd

INTERVIEW AJ Jenks, star of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

Get the Chance Community Critic Barbara Hughes-Moore speaks with AJ Jenks, one of the stars of the number one national UK touring production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Birmingham-born AJ trained in actor/musicianship at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and has since gone on to play musical icons like Elvis Presley, Barry Gibb and Mick Jagger before taking on the role of Buddy Holly (which he shares with Chris Weeks).

Buddy is one of just a few iconic musicals including Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Miss Saigon, Evita and Cats to reach three decades on stage. It follows the musical icon’s meteoric rise from his rockabilly roots to international fame and his legendary final performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before his untimely death at the age of 22. In just 18 months, Buddy revolutionised the face of contemporary music, and would influence everyone from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones.

Featuring a super talented cast of actor-musicians, Buddy includes 20+ of his greatest hits, including the timeless classics That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, Everyday and Rave On. It also features classics from Buddy’s contemporaries, like the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace and Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba, as well as rip-roaring versions of Shout and Johnny B. Goode.

Buddy plays at the New Theatre Cardiff from 14 – 16 September 2023. For more information and to book tickets here.


Back in 2018, four prime ministers ago, a new musical based on the music of Take That was born. It was called “The Band” and the BBC did the show “Let it Shine” to discover the next big boy band for it. They were called Five to Five.

Fast forward to 2023, Take That celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first number one Pray, and “The Band” becomes Greatest Days – The Official Take That Musical!

There has been another musical based on Take That – Never Forget – which by the way, premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in 2007!

So, to Greatest Days.

It’s Manchester 1992 and its based around five 16-year-old girls for who ‘the band’ is everything.  They then reunite 25 years later, and you see how life has taken each girl down a different road.

Written by Tim Firth – who also penned Calendar Girls The musical with a certain Gary Barlow, its story is nostalgic and funny. The strength of a “Jukebox Musical” can sometimes be measured in how well it would stand without the music – Greatest Days does this so well. The nostalgia you feel could easily equate to how your own life has panned out in the last thirty-one years. There’s a warmth to each character, and something familiar that feels real.

Production wise it’s brilliant.

The “band” – well put together, but as I’ve previously said, their performances don’t drive the story forward. They provide the backing track, but the main story is carried by the performances of the main ensemble – the young and current versions of each. Going back to what I said about the warmth in each character, each performance was flawless. Sometimes with touring musicals, it’s about the one person being in it, granted Kym Marsh’s Rachel is fab, but each person took you on their own journey of nostalgia. There wasn’t one stand out moment – the story and performers are the stand outs of Greatest Days.

Back in 2018 when I reviewed “The Band” I did something a little bit cheesy and included some Take That song titles in recommending this musical.

But you’d wait for life for that. Okay Babe, are you happy now I found heaven? I might just end up all night, and then never forget to do this review pray-sing The Band. You do what you like, I’d love to hold up a light and come back for good to see this again! Patience, then you’ll rule the world.

Did I love “Greatest Days”? Sure!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

REVIEW Around the World in 80 Days, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

150 years since its publication, Around the World in 80 Days is a story that continues to inspire and entertain us. Jules Verne’s classic tale of Phileas Fogg’s quest to circumnavigate the globe has been adapted multiple times in films, TV series and video games. This new version, adapted and directed by Juliet Forster for Tilted Wig and York Theatre Royal, adds a new spin on the material that brings a sense of energy, anarchy and fun for the whole family!

The cast of Around the World in 80 Days

A versatile and talented cast of five play circus performers trying to stage a (rather chaotic!) rendition of Verne’s Victorian-era novel. The quintet of actors, acrobats and puppeteers play multiple roles, such as Alex Phelps who deftly plays both the finicky Phileas Fogg and the beleaguered Ringmaster trying to keep the whole thing together. The antics have shades of Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Went Wrong, making it an ideal introduction to theatre for kids and families.

Genevieve Sabherwal, Eddie Mann and Katriona Brown in Around the World in 80 Days

The cast are on top form, bringing zeal and panache to a well-trodden tale. The show features a number of well-choreographed and excellently performed circus acts, including fight scenes, dance scenes and a standout battle over a see-saw that must have been far easier to perform than the actors made it look. While the first act lacks some pace, there is a zesty creativity to proceedings that keeps things chugging along, with puppets and props used to convey train journeys, elephant rides, and a tipsy tussle between Inspector Fix (Eddie Mann) and Passepartout (a hugely lovable Wilson Benedito).

Wilson Benedito and Alex Phelps in Around the World in 80 Days

Writer Juliet Foster, who also directs, does a great job of navigating the aspects of the story that haven’t aged quite so well, addressing the British colonialist underpinnings of the storyline in which Indian princess Aouda (Genevieve Sabherwal) is ‘rescued’ by Fogg and Passepartout, and shedding light on the real-life story of American journalist Nellie Bly (Katriona Brown) who, inspired by Verne’s story, undertook the same journey and broke Fogg’s (fictional) record by over a week.

Alex Phelps, Katriona Brown, Eddie Mann and Genevieve Sabherwal in Around the World in 80 Days

The circus elements bring a sense of spectacle to the proceedings, with Eddie Mann’s Knife Thrower twirling electric flames in a stunning light show (he also plays a sharpshooting cowboy with an action scene all to himself) while Barton whips a target in half from metres away. More circus antics and acrobats, of which this excellent cast are clearly capable, might have added even more to the story (perhaps even some more onstage musical or dance sequences), though the cast are consistently entertaining and Sara Perks’ stage and costume designs add pizzazz. With a little tweaking, though, it could be exceptional.

Alex Phelps, Wilson Benedito, Genevieve Sabherwal and Eddie Mann in Around the World in 80 Days

Originally staged in school fields and socially-distanced venues in 2021, and inspired by the many months spent locked down in our homes, Tilted Wig’s Around the World in 80 Days is a slice of escapism that will take you on a charming journey across the globe – and all without having to leave the New Theatre!

Around the World in 80 Days is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 22 – 25 June, before concluding its tour in July in Doncaster, Oldham and Bromley. More information and how to book tickets here.

Alex Phelps in Around the World in 80 Days

REVIEW Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] at the New Theatre Cardiff

When you hear the term ‘rock opera’, your first thought might be of icons and iconoclasts: Ziggy Stardust, Meat Loaf, Pink Floyd. You don’t tend to think of the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield – but TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is here to give former Prime Minister Tony Blair his very own American Idiot (but more on George W. Bush later).

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] ©Mark Senior

Billed as Yes, Minister meets The Rocky Horror Show, TONY! is the unruly brainchild of comedian Harry Hill and songwriter Steve Brown. Directed by Peter Rowe, it follows the titular politico from cradle to grave, from his stint as a wannabe rockstar in his student days to becoming leader of the Labour party and winning a landslide victory at the 1997 election, plus the precipitous legacy of his special relationship with POTUS and ‘personality’ politics. Jack Whittle, who previously stole the show in Mischief Theatre’s Comedy About a Bank Robbery, is a pitch-perfect PM, nailing all of Blair’s mannerisms from the rictus grin to the ‘right on’ charisma that lent New Labour its groovy young poster boy.

We follow Tony through a cavalcade of larger-than-life characters, including loved-up Liverpudlian Cherie (a top-form Tori Burgess – her running joke about fox hunting is a real winner) and bumbling frenemy Gordon Brown (Phil Sealey). Through it all, Tony is dogged by the angel and devil on his shoulder: the former, a near-saintly Neil Kinnock (original cast member Martin Johnston), portrayed as a tragic Llywelyn-style hero cut down in his political prime, with a rousing ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’-esque swan song. (We were promised a Les Mis moment, after all). As for the latter, Howard Samuels is delectably devilish as Peter Mandelson, our sinister master of ceremonies and the architect of Blair’s ascent to the big leagues.

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] centre: Jack Whittle as Tony Blair & Emma Jay Thomas as Princess Diana, ©Mark Senior

They’re joined by an excellent three-piece band (Oli Jackson, David Guy and Harry Brent) and supported by a lively and versatile cast including Rosie Strobel as a rabble-rousing John Prescott, Sally Cheng as the adulterous Robin Cook, Emma Jay Thomas as a dance-mad Princess Di, and William Hazell, who covers all the roles in the show and gets to shine as a briefly-spied Bill Clinton and as Blair’s boyhood hero ‘Mick Jaggers’. The cast double up in roles, which brings us Sealey’s memorable turn as a Groucho Marx-inspired Saddam Hussein and Johnston as a flight jacketed Dubya puppetered by Samuels’ bewigged Dick Cheney.

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] ©Mark Senior

The accents are broad, the comedy even broader (bordering on bad taste), and the gags fly faster than insults at the PMQs – but the show doesn’t scrimp on the harsh reality. Blair’s accountability in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the three other wars he oversaw during his tenure in Number 10, are on full display, even if his culpability is downplayed into naïve self-advancement. What it does nail, however, is that Blair isn’t a pop star, but a political luvvie: picking pizzazz over principles, soaking up the spotlight while the Gordon Browns of the world are made to wait in the wings.

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] Jack Whittle as Tony Blair & Tori Burgess as Cherie Blair, ©Mark Senior

Entertaining with flashes of brilliance, TONY! isn’t here to set the record straight: it’s here to put that record on a turntable, smash it with a comedy mallet, and dance on the debris. While the set, wigs and costumes could do with some polishing, TONY! gets away with it in the name of slapstick silliness – and its final song has moments of genuine power and poignancy, with nods to ‘Springtime for Hitler’ and Dr Strangelove. If you’re au fait with Harry Hill’s oeuvre, you’ll find the rhythm quickly, and if not, you’ll likely still be swept away in the irreverence of it all. It might not be endorsed by the real Tony Blair, but it certainly was by the audience on opening night, who couldn’t have given it a more rapturous response. The question remains, though: TONY! may have had its Mamma Mia! moment – but will you go again?

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is playing a limited run at the New Theatre Cardiff from Wednesday 14 – Saturday 17 June. More information and how to book tickets here.

PREVIEW Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] New Theatre Cardiff

What do you get when you cross Yes, Minister with The Rocky Horror Show? You get Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera], of course! This, at least, is the bonkers pitch from comedian Harry Hill and Steve Brown, the comic creatives behind the West End’s weirdest smash hit show.

Billed as “a reckless reappraisal of the life of former Ugly Rumours front man and Britain’s first pop Prime Minister Tony Blair“, it follows the titular Tony from Easy Street to Downing Street in a madcap musical experience like no other, featuring a cast of larger-than-life characters from George W. Bush to Princess Diana.

But don’t expect a history lesson, says co-creator Harry Hill: “In our world Tony’s born singing and dancing, Saddam Hussein is played as Groucho Marx, and Gordon Brown occasionally turns into the Incredible Hulk – let’s just say all the facts are there… but not necessarily as they occurred!”

Having opened on London’s West End in May, it now embarks on a UK tour, including a planned four-week stint at the Edinburgh Festival Fring,e and of course this week at Cardiff’s prestigious New Theatre. While the show is sure to divide audiences (it comes with a note that neither Tony Blair, the Tony Blair Institute, nor any other person featured in this production have endorsed or are affiliated with the production), Hill maintains that it has something for everyone: “It’s a show for Tony Lovers and Haters everywhere – and everyone in between.”

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is playing a limited run at the New Theatre Cardiff from Wednesday 14 – Saturday 17 June. More information and how to book tickets here.

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Wales Millennium Centre

Part of an extensive bibliography, Neil Gaiman’s 2013 novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane escaped adaptation until previews for this play began in December 2019. A successful West End run, and Olivier nominations, followed to culminate in a UK and Ireland tour. In bringing Gaiman’s famous imagination to life, friendship, storytelling, and family are central to an epic, magical tale of a childhood once forgotten and the darkness lurking at its edges.  

Following the clearly creepy visuals of Henry Selick’s Coraline (2009) and the excellent chemistry between Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale and David Tennant’s Crowley in Good Omens (2019), The Ocean at the End of the Lane presents unique challenges to theatre makers. Director Katy Rudd, Adaptor Joel Horwood, and cast tackle fantastical and gritty elements with equal sincerity resulting in an evening of spectacle, relatability, and stunning visuals enhancing the original material. 

Keir Ogilvy brings a sensitive and well-meaning 12-year-old boy to life. It is a difficult age at which to understand why, in the aftermath of his mother’s death, his Dad (Trevor Fox) burns the toast and brings in a lodger, forcing him to share a room with his energetic little sister (Laurie Ogden). All that before said lodger kills himself in the family car. Ogilvy keeps the boy grounded, but questioning and immovable whilst open-hearted as he discovers his wit and bravery along the way. Ogilby and Fox share many expertly gut-wrenching scenes ensuring the audience cannot look away for a second. 

Millie Hikasa (Lettie) and Keir Ogilvy (Boy)

Millie Hikasa is a standout as Lettie Hempstock. This production emphasises Lettie’s mysterious complexities whilst keeping her immediately recognisable to all who know girls like her, want their girls to be like her, or are girls like her. Hikasa packs Lettie with undeniable charm, courage, creativity, and tenderness to provide a comforting presence throughout. Alongside Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Ginnie Hempstock and particularly Finty Williams as Old Mrs Hempstock, their clan sit as both the heart and levity of the show, gently guiding both boy and audience through darker, complex fantastical elements. 

Millie Hikasa (Lettie) and Keir Ogilvy (Boy)

Charlie Brooks provides an effortless spine-chilling edge to this production as Ursula, both in her actions and the hard truths she perceives. Brooks and the tight, talented ensemble are at the central to the play’s more theatrical, fantastical elements but to describe them would be a spoiler. This production is perfect for fans of theatre magic and illusion using puppetry, movement, set, prop, and lighting design to truly elevate an already captivating performance. 

Keir Ogilvy (Boy), Finty Williams (Old Mrs Hempstock) and Millie Hikasa (Lettie)

It is unfortunately often the case that the soundtracks of straight plays fall under the radar, or are not utilised. However, Jherek Bischoff’s compositions and Ian Dickinson’s sound design ensured the soundtrack sat in equal measure with all other elements of this production. You will leave the theatre wanting to listen to this soundtrack as much as any musical production.   

This production features theatrical narrative and design imaginative and beautiful in equal measure. There truly is something in this show for everyone, especially young and old. Particularly, anyone interested in the creation of captivating theatre design should not miss their chance to see this show! 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is playing at the Wales Millennium Centre from 30 May – 3 June 2023. More information on the show and how to book tickets here.