Bath Voice Reviews

Bath Voice Theatre Review: a committed performance by Kes Joffe as Christopher, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Mission Theatre, reminds us all to listen to those who are different

JANUARY 24, 2024

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Mission Theatre

Nobody apart from Christopher’s teacher Siobhan, nobody listens to him. His dad lies, his mother can’t cope with him, the police misunderstand him and Mrs Shears shouts at him. Set in the 1990s before mobile phones and the internet were standard props The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has a curiously dated feel with its references to adult top shelf magazines, Georgette Heyer novels and society’s indifference to those considered to be ‘on the spectrum.’

Stepping into the role of the protagonist Christopher Boone, Kes Joffe gave a committed and believable performance as the boy with high functioning autism who is determined to find the killer of Wellington, his neighbour Mrs Shear’s pet dog. His melt-downs, his confusion with adults who speak in idioms, his frustration with officialdom and his inability to understand the motivations of his parents were sensitively handled by this talented young actor. It was an outstanding performance.

Siobhan and Christopher

He was ably supported by Sam Fry as Ed – Christopher’s doing-his-best-but-not-quite-good-enough dad – who looked and sounded the part of a plumber who could repair overflowing toilets with ease. And Christopher’s mother Judy, played by Antonia White was suitably unprepared and unable to care for her son – although she comes good eventually. It was Christopher’s parents’ failed relationship and the reason for its breakdown which lay at the heart of this adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel by playwright Simon Stephens that Christopher’s dog murder investigations uncovers – revealing the dual narratives of the smash hit book.

Framed as a play within a play, unlike the novel written in the first person, the story had a second narrative with Christopher’s teacher Siobhan (played by an excellent Tania Lyons) as she reads his ‘book’ – and whose calm and reasoned voice helped to sooth him and educate him in how to deal with his emotions and the world around him. Thank goodness for professional mentors and teachers.

An ensemble supporting cast moved coloured boxes and lightweight planks into various configurations to represent trains, homes, streets, gardens and rooms in director Ann Ellison’s thoughtful production.

Jane Lawson as angry Mrs Shears doubled up a an even angrier shopkeeper, while Christine Anderson delighted as kindly (and one of the few understanding adults) as Mrs Alexandra, and Roger Ellison as not-very-understanding-adulterer Roger added support with various minor roles.

Jonathan Taft enjoyed himself in several parts including the Duty Sergeant and the Ticket Seller while Joshua Tenn made a very good impression as a more-tea-type-of-vicar who dodges difficult questions. Claire Rumball as Mrs Gascoyne and Ethan James as an unhelpful policeman added to Christopher’s confusing world in which adults simply don’t get him – as to him they seem rather dense.

The Mission Theatre is known for its unusual space as a former chapel but Hayley Fitton-Cook’s lighting did much to create different moods and locations from an underground train in London to a garden – all helped by the sound created by Toby Lewis Atwell and Alexa Garner – although those who are affected by flickering lights should be aware there are sequences of flashing lights. Music played by Philip Glass was both evocative and an emotional background to Christopher’s uncertain journey.

Director Ann Ellison’s production is long at more than two and half hours – although first night shows usually over run as the cast get used to a live performance. I’m sure some of the extended sequences such as tube station scene and the chase sequence will tighten up as the week progresses as sometimes less is more as an audience can quickly grasp a point the drama is making without it being overly lengthy.

The set design combined with the structured movements of the cast did however convey the black and white mindset of Christopher as he struggles to understand the workaday world of 1990s Swindon and London and his imperfect parents. A creative and unusual production enhanced by strong performances – especially from Kes Joffe who brought Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s mystery novel’s protagonist and mathematics genius to life.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Saturday 27th January, 2024, at 7.30pm nightly, with a Saturday matinee at 2pm.

For information and tickets visit


Bath Voice Theatre Review: last night of Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal seen from the Gods using binoculars


 JAN 7, 2024

JANUARY 7, 2024

Weird I know. I wanted to see the last night of the Theatre Royal Bath’s pantomime Sleeping Beauty directed by Jill Williams from the Gods. That’s the back row of the Grand Circle which in layman’s’ terms is about half a mile from the stage – thank goodness for binoculars.

For just over £10 a ticket the back row of the Theatre Royal Bath means an oxygen mask is essential, as by the time you have ascended the millions of flights of stairs you may not only be short of breath but suffering a nose bleed. But like ascending the highest peak in Bath at Alexandra Park you have splendid views of all the rows of seats in front – and there in the distance is the stage. Even without a show it’s a fabulous sight. Below are the boxes and expensive seats with a variety of heads to inspect, the impossibly steep stairs, the balcony and curves of the seating – which to be fair give generous space for those of us with long legs – so unlike a certain auditorium up the road in Bristol. Mentioning no names. It’s a symphony in velvet and crimson and gold.

Pantomimes are one of those things that can create a social divide. For some they are the theatre for the commoners or the great unwashed, only for those who go to the theatre once a year. A show filled with vulgarity and glitter– just like so much of TV and social media these days. What rubbish. For others a pantomime is a guaranteed two or more hours of high class entertainment of comedy, dance, song and storytelling that is part of British theatrical tradition. You pays your money and you makes your choice. Panto is the theatre of tradition and of professional entertainment in a space the Ancient Greeks, Chaucer and Shakespeare would have recognised.

Theatre Royal Bath’s production of Sleeping Beauty was excellent – I’m not saying five stars – but the late Chris Harris would have approved of it. I’ve seen better pantos there and I’ve seen worse elsewhere, but the last night seen from the Gods was life affirming with its message of good overcoming evil in such a jolly frightfully nice sort of way. The script was a bit iffy in places and the story unlikely – but even if that was found wanting – the performances were superb.

First and foremost were the supporting troupe of dancers who gave the production star quality. How can anyone resist the charms of The Dorothy Coleburn School of Dance members who danced the way into our hearts as they took charge of scene after scene, filling the stage with happiness. Principal dancers Mercedes Brown, Elizabeth Lundy, Mathew Michaels, Kitty O’Gara, Megan Reidy and Liam Wetherell occupied the stage with grace, energy, high kicks and Strictly Come Dancing energy. Worth the tenner ticket money on its own.

Sleeping Beauty herself was played by Maisie Sellwood who held the show together with her stage presence and strong voice as she failed to listen to the audience and allowed herself to be pricked by the spindle operated by badass Carabosse (Emma Noman) who threated to take over the show with her charismatic panto baddie persona. I was unconvinced by Princess Rose’s love interest Prince Vincent (Eastenders’s Neil McDermott) who must have been a decade or more older than she and who despite his credentials – tight breeches, a good voice and a handsome face – may have had one eye on the 10.35pm train back to London. Love, they kept pronouncing, trumps all but perhaps not quite in this case – although they would have looked good on a dating App.

Fairy Snowfall played by the sparkling pavlova with a cleavage Sarah Jane Buckley sprinkled plenty of good will as she flew into the stage on wires. Brimming with happiness and a willingness to fight the evils of Carabosse with fairy dust she was what every pantomime (and indeed the planet with its ills of war and poverty) needs. A world class ambassador of goodness.

Jon Monie as Lester the Jester and son of the panto dame Nanny Nora (Nick Wilton) kept the audience onside and asked four youngsters onto the stage ‘what was their favourite Christmas present’? Fortunately, he didn’t get any left field answers but rather items which I and many adults had no idea what they were – it’s all Greek to us oldies. A football or a doll would have done for us back in the day.

Nick Wilton with his or her succession of outfits filled the role of dame with professionalism while his opposite number of David Pendlebury as The King also ruled the stage with authority and a voice that said I know what I’m doing – and they both did it very well.

The overall impression of the last night was a cast who knew the show back to front – but who made no lazy last night in jokes – but kept the production totally full on to the last song and dance. Full marks to the writer Jon Monie who put the show together although more local references and topical notes would have gained more laughs.

From where I was sitting some miles from the stage, the voices were clear and concise, the jokes brilliantly terrible, and the lights, sound, music and action just right. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for sitting in the cheap seats.

Harry Mottram

The show ran from 7th December 2023 to 7th January, 2024.

Although the show is over there is The Circle in the Main House next week. Details at

Please note the theatre asks for no photos or videos to be taken of the show – so the photo I took is before the show began giving a view from the back row of the Grand Circle before most people arrived.

Bath Voice News Theatre Review: a confusing and uneven visit to Neverland with Wendy – a Peter Pan Story at the Egg Theatre

JANUARY 5, 2024

The Egg Theatre in Bath has seen so many superb shows for children and young people but sadly Wendy: A Peter Pan Story is not one of them. Excellent in places, stunning and entertaining at times it was also lumpy, shouty, unsubtle and with dialogue that was at times incoherent with the cast unnecessarily mic-ed up. Thank goodness for electronic captions projected above the stage.

The cast however injected plenty of enthusiasm and movement – which was one of the best parts of the show – with some strong musical set pieces by Jack Drewry with fine choreography by Deepra Singh. Liana Cottrill as Wendy was brilliant, combining a sense of youthful adventure with her more serious home life side sorting out the family’s groceries and her mum’s prescription. Peter Pan was given a more muscular persona by the vibrant Joseph Tweedale while Alice Lamb in charge of the coiled puppet Tinkerbell gave the fairy an aggressive and bullying persona. Captain Hook lost some of the pirate’s wicked wit as comedy villain with Rozelle Gemma, but her portrayal of Mum was just right. And JoAnne Haines as Jon Michael was the essential tantrum enthused boy.

Reinvented as a sort of computer game, it meant much of the charm and magic of JM Barrie’s original 1904 play of Peter Pan was lost by a combination of James Baldwin’s playground inspired script and Jenny Davies’ uneven direction that tried to do too much. However, the mainly school age children in the audience remained transfixed with nods of recognition in some of the bullying scenes and vocalisation of the teenage insecurities.

Production values were high with captivating graphics, strong sound and evocative lighting and the set by Anisha Fields was perfect with its fridge freezer and to-do list on the door. Plus, we did get some traditional sword fighting between lost boy Tootles, Peter Pan, Wendy and Hook. But so much was jettisoned for the 21st century computer game version such as flying children and real mermaids that the overall feel was a show stuck on the ground rather than flying off to Neverland.

Harry Mottram

The show runs to 13 January 2024.

Tickets and information at


Bath Voice Theatre Review: Florian Zeller’s The Father takes us into the seventh age of life as André’s world closes in on him at The Mission Theatre

JANUARY 26, 2023

Some plays leave you uplifted, amused and full of joy while others send you home whistling the finale’s tune. The Father at the Mission Theatre makes you doubt your own sanity with its theme of mental decline as it tells the story of the protagonist André’s descent into the twilight zone of dementia.

Played in the round with a slowly reducing set of beige furniture André (John Matthews) is as Shakespeare put it, in the sixth age of life. The ‘second childishness and mere oblivion,
sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ A condition that is frightening for the afflicted and distressing for those who care for him.

Set in a modern Parisian flat Florian Zeller’s 2014 drama The Father (Le Pere) has been twice filmed (including one with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman). It uses that tried and trusted technique of the unreliable narrator. Who do we believe? For André is increasingly confused as he tries to make sense of his world. Is he in his own apartment or is he in a home – and who are these people who insist he takes his medication? His daughter, a nurse, a carer or complete strangers? The result is to leave the audience as muddled as André is as he struggles to make sense of everything. Whether it’s where his watch is, or if he should get dressed, or even what he once did for a living.

John Matthews’s performance as André is both convincing and disturbing in director Ann Ellison’s Next Stage production of Zeller’s lucid drama as he transforms from slightly forgetful head of the household having a senior moment to a lost soul crying for his mother.

There is excellent support from Lydia Cook as his daughter Anne who keeps the action grounded as she attempts to make André understand what is happening with a polished naturalistic performance. While Tiana James as André’s social worker come carer maintained an understated and sympathetic persona as the professional dealing with someone whose world is darkening.

And André’s confusion wasn’t helped as he muddled his carer with ‘The Woman’ (a brilliant Hayley Fitton-Cook) and his son-in-law Pierre (Callum Marshall) with ‘The Man’ (Joshua Tenn) suggesting those in his life increasingly became interchangeable as names and roles eluded him. These supporting roles were of exceptional quality – as to downplay everyday people takes a deal of skill and a measure of subtlety.

When Pierre raises his hand to strike André due to his increasing frustration with the old man, we recognise that moment when understanding gives way to ‘I’ve had enough of this’ pitilessness. It also highlighted the vital work of professional carers in society as portrayed by Tiana and Hayley who must understand and never judge their charges.

Life is often a series of circles, for the British premier of the French play was at the nearby Ustinov Studio in Bath back in 2014 when Kenneth Cranham took the lead. He continued in the role when Zeller’s drama ran in the West End at the Wyndham the following year. And now there’s a chance to see the Molière awarded play back in the spa city with a cast on top form.

Harry Mottram

The play runs at the Mission Theatre, Bath, until Saturday 28th, 2023.

For tickets and more details visit

At each performance the company will be raising money for the Bath-based charity RICE – Research Institute for the Care of Older People. For details visit


Relatively Speaking – Antony Eden as Greg and Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny – Credit © Tristram Kenton

Bath Voice Theatre Review: Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking at the Theatre Royal Bath brilliantly lampoons marital infidelity in a terribly British comedy of manners

Ten bob notes, bus conductors and posters of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Robin Herford’s sparkling production of Relatively Speaking takes us out of the Cost-of-Living Crisis into the decade of 60’s permissiveness and a time when life was er… not simpler… but rather more complicated.

It was Alan Ayckbourn’s first hit and with its plot twists and misunderstandings it still keeps the laughs coming as the characters all speak at cross purposes. Greg thinks Ginny is screwing around, Philip believes Greg is having an affair with his wife Sheila, Ginny wants to finish with Philip and marry Greg – and as for Sheila – well she is simply confused – until a pair of tell-tale slippers turn up on her patio. Refreshingly, it’s a narrative driven by a woman and turns the misogyny of the time on its head.

Relatively Speaking – Steven Pacey as Philip – Photo credit © Tristram Kenton

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1967 play Relatively Speaking is one of the 20th century’s great British farces. OK the first few minutes seemed a bit flat, but it was freezing outside, and it was the first night. A long wait for a taxi, a mystery pair of slippers and Ginny’s unhurriedly getting dressed sequence moved the story to the next scene: Greg’s quest to meet Ginny’s parents. With that very British attribute of not wanting to take offence or ask a direct question the story of Ginny and Philip’s relationship quickly unravels.

Marital infidelity real or imagined, young love – however blind, the cynical sexual imbalance in power relationships and that old fashioned phrase: familiarity breeds contempt – Relatively Speaking has been a hit for decades with its complex plot, breezy dialogue and familiar domestic settings. And for the most part the near full house lapped it up as a brilliant Liza Goddard as Sheila finally clicked as to chaos taking place on her patio.

Relatively Speaking – Liza Goddard as Sheila and Antony Eden as Greg – Credit © Tristram Kenton

Steven Pacey as Philip brought the drama to life with his angry and manic obsession over a lost garden hoe – and of his horror that his affair was about to be revealed. Naïve (and frankly dim) Greg played by Antony Eden had a touch of the modern stand-up comic about him while delivering his lines as he repeatedly failed to see what was going on in plain sight. Manipulative Ginny (Olivia Le Anderson) was the slick accustomed serial liar as she slipped on her stockings without a hitch, switched from lover to daughter and back to fiancée – all with a winsome half smile as the evil angel of deception.

Relatively Speaking – Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny – Photo credit © Tristram Kenton

The pristine home of Philip and Sheila was more 1980s Bradley Stoke rather than a wisteria covered detached home built after the war but no matter. Greg’s flat was recognisably set in the era of The Summer of Love and when Jimmie Rodger’s hit song English Country Garden was still played on The BBC Light Programme. Hugely enjoyable and excruciatingly funny this production of Relatively Speaking should be compulsory viewing for anyone from abroad planning to visit England on a mission to discover our national character.

Harry Mottram

Relatively Speaking runs to Saturday, 21st January, 2023 at the Theatre Royal Bath.

Tickets and information at

Relatively Speaking is a Theatre Royal Bath Production

The play then tours:

Tue 24 Jan – Sat 28 Jan 2023 Cheltenham Everyman

Tue 31 Jan – Sat 04 Feb 2023 His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Tue 7 Feb – Sat 11 February 2023 Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tue 14 Feb – Sat 18 Feb 2023 Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre

Tue 21 Feb – Sat 25 Feb 2023 Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

Tue 7 – Sat 11 March 2023 Malvern Theatre

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Bath Voice Theatre Review: Playing Up Theatre’s Production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is creative, witty and extremely funny – and even features a Dr Hook hit – in the play for all time

Some of the cast of The Government Inspector with the Mayor centre played by Andy Fletcher

Theatre Review: The Government Inspector. Rondo Theatre

Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play The Government Inspector is a play for all time with its themes of political corruption, greed and the class system – and so it is no surprise that it remains as popular to dramatize today as it did in 19th century Tsarist Russia where it is set.

Bath’s Playing Up Theatre Company more that did it justice at the Rondo Theatre in a production directed with style by Darian Nelson and Sophie Brooks in this updated version adapted by David Harrower. One of the joys of the script is the chance to be creative with the story of mistaken identity as the Mayor and the town’s folk fall over themselves to flatter the wrong Government official in a classic farce.

The production creatively used picture frames to great effect

Andy Fletcher as the Mayor and main protagonist excelled himself in an outstanding performance as he mistakenly bossed his underlings to bow before the minor official Khlestakov as his eyes lit up at the thought of an easy life in St Petersburg. The non-Government Inspector Khlestakov played with great energy by Rich Chivers enjoyed himself as he saw the villagers fall over themselves to impress him – greatly aided by a dead pan Scarlett Beattie as his down to earth servant Osip. When his love interest Maria demands Khlestakov sings her a love song he broke into Dr Hook’s 1979 hit When You’re In Love with a Beautiful Woman much to the audience’s delight.

The Government Inspector (left) was played by Rich Chivers

The use of picture frames to symbolise windows and homes worked well with the mayor’s wife and daughter appearing in the opening scene in decorative portrait frames. Emma Firman as his wife and Leah Brine as his daughter Maria were an excellent double act in their full-length gowns and finery. Maria’s yellow ball gown in particular added a visual gem as she was wooed by the phoney inspector in scenes of high comedy.

Gogol’s famous other double act – the landowners Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky were given a Laurel and Hardy-esque knock-about tone by Jack Strawbridge and James Coy respectively. Anne Hipperson as a hunting-shooting-fishing judge stepped straight out of the pages of The Field magazine with a wonderful Sloane-ranger performance as she attempts to impress Khlestakov as she stuffs Roubles into his shiny waistcoat.

The Mayor was played by Andy Fletcher (central) with Jack Strawbride and James Coy as his supporters

There was strong support from Diluki O’Beirne as the highly unprofessional hospital governor who declared the patients were all well enough to be sent home and Dr Gibner (Rebecca Waters) who fortunately spoke no Russian so couldn’t say the wrong thing. Rebecca Waters played it straight as the waiter – a tricky piece of acting to pull off as mayhem takes place all around. At the other end of the spectrum of comic acting was Michael Auton who could probably perform a Les Dawson tribute act as he appeared rouged up with a drooping bust as the sergeant’s widow in another brilliant piece of comedy.

Bearded postmaster Paul Dyson got his timing just right with his lines as he revealed he read all the mail and even kept one love letter that was posted since it moved him so much. Tim Carter as the schoolteacher was suitably compliant in his efforts to follow the dictates of the mayor and had a hilariously awkward scene as he tried to not-bribe the inspector by bribing him with cash.

Gogol’s script is full of exquisite set pieces of comedy from the sexual rivalry of Anna and Maria to Osip’s prosaic asides to Khlestakov’s grandiose pronouncements. With its show stopping finale as reality dawns on the residents it remains a story for all time as it chimes with our views on today’s ruling Government politicians who we would all secretly like to send to Siberia.

Harry Mottram

The play runs at The Rondo Theatre, Bath until Saturday, 12th November 2022.

For tickets and more information visit

For more about Playing Up Theatre Company visit


THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR by Nikolai Gogol adapted by David Harrower

Gogol’s deeply silly satire of small-town corruption offers a riotous portrait of rampaging self-delusion. When the crooked leadership of a provincial village discovers that an undercover inspector is coming to root out their commonplace corruption, the town weaves a web of bribery, lies, and utter madness. This biting satirical presentation of David Harrower’s adaptation offers a hilarious reminder of the terrifying timelessness of bureaucracy and buffoonery.

The company will celebrate 20 years treading the boards next May with a production of Samuel Beckett’s, Waiting For Godot, at the Mission Theatre in Bath.


Bath Voice Theatre Review: Revealed – a brilliant, fiery and testosterone fuelled family drama with added violence and fried chicken

Dylan Brady as Luther and Everal A Walsh as the grandfather in Revealed. Pictures: Mark Dawson

Theatre Review: Revealed at The Tobacco Factory, Bristol

Men, men, men. You might ask, where are the women in Daniel J Carver’s inter-generational family drama, Revealed. Grandma and mum are both talked about of how they were abused and assaulted but also how they showed empathy and common sense as resentments and secrets spill out as a family trio confront each other. Grandfather Sidney, dad Malcolm and son Luther are locked in the family’s Caribbean café while outside a riot prevents their escape. And that confinement generates the drama with its themes of identity, masculinity, sexuality and parenting. And what a brilliantly acted drama Revealed is – as it grips from the opening physical theatre to its revelatory conclusion.

The brooding Malcolm (Daniel J Carver) in Revealed. Pictures: Mark Dawson

In a five-star production directed with extraordinary pace by Jay Zorenti-Nakhid Revealed is a universal story of family members coming to terms with their pasts, their presents and their futures. And in particular three generations of British black men which only adds to the layers of anger, conflict and prejudice played with astonishing realism by the cast. Patriarch Everal A Walsh as peace-maker Sidney is a hostage to his penal past due to a violent reaction to racial slurs. Daniel J Carver is his angry son Malcolm who has bottled up resentment at the way society and the police treat black men. The playwright and actor gave a blistering testosterone fuelled portrayal of a man frustrated by his own prejudices and shortcomings. And the baby of the family, teenager Luther played by Dylan Brady was the voice of the future and of reason but also the fashion-loving dandy behind the play’s title.

Credit to Kevin McCurdy for the believably violent fight scenes mostly generated by belligerent protagonist Malcolm. Credit too for Amanda Mascarenhas’s set design with its fractured wall and photographs of famous but also compromised black icons – while the café’s menu illustrated Caribbean cuisine ranging from goat curry to fried chicken leaving this critic feeling very hungry.

Dylan Brady as Luther in Revealed. Pictures: Mark Dawson

The words of poet Sukina Noor who spoke in the bar area before curtain-up set the scene as she listed the many facets of the lives of black men in 21st century Britain. Revealed is not just a play but an important cultural moment in Bristol’s social history. It’s a play that doesn’t patronise, doesn’t play the victim but fully investigates the lives of black men in all their aspects. It played to a full house with many from the black and Asian Bristolian communities in the audience – a sector that is often missing from theatre audiences.

The themes of absent fathers, abused partners and parenting in all its forms in Daniel J Carver’s script were ingeniously over-laid with the wider issues of prejudice and race, police brutality and a lack of opportunities – and yet it had much humour and comic moments. The hyper realistic dialogue as the characters talked over each other (exceptionally difficult as actors can easily lose their cues), not listening to each other and contradicting each other was brilliant. A piece of theatre that enjoyed a standing ovation at the end.

Harry Mottram

The play runs at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, until October 8th, 2022.

For information and tickets visit

Produced by Tobacco Factory Theatres. Co-commissioned by Tobacco Factory Theatres and The Red Earth Collective. Developed with the support of the National Theatre’s Generate programme.

Casting notes: Everal A Walsh (Rockets And Blue Lights at the National Theatre, Dr Who for BBC and Oscar-nominated Best Picture of the Year 2019 The Favourite), Dylan Brady (best-known for his portrayal of Danny in Coronation Street), and the play’s writer Daniel J Carver (Henry VI Parts 2 and 3 at Royal Shakespeare Company).


Bath Voice Theatre Review: The Mission Theatre’s gripping production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane includes biscuits, a little black dress and a murder weapon in Martin McDonagh’s black comedy

The Mission Theatre’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Step into Mag’s parlour where a badly tuned radio crackles in the background, a pot of porridge congeals on the range and there’s a strong smell of urine in the Belfast sink. It’s a sad and depressing space recreated in the theatre in the round at the Mission Theatre in Bath in Next Stage’s production of Martin McDonagh’s 1996 black comedy The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

It’s a universal story of a mother and daughter relationship that’s gone wrong. Both despise the other to the point of hatred although both in a way need each other. With her bad back and bad hand seventy-year-old Mag relies on her daughter Maureen to fetch and carry as the frail grand dame sits in her rocking chair. Angered by her mother’s self-pitying behaviour Maureen’s role as carer is exacerbated by the effect it has on her compromised love life.

Jane Lawson as Mag was so affective as cantankerous old Mag that it was hard to have any sympathy for her as she belittled her daughter with emotional blackmail. With a quivering lip, a wagging finger and an ability to flip from pleading to condemning in an instance Lawson as the protagonist dominated her parlour until the brutal and climactic ending.

Maureen played with a cold cynicism by Liz Wilson gave a strong performance as the put-upon daughter seemingly enjoying her role as both carer and sadistic guardian in the claustrophobic psychodrama. Whether it was forcing Complan down her mother’s throat or refusing her a favourite biscuit these small tortures heightened the broken relationship.

Enter into the parlour two versions of the forgotten men of far flung Leenane in Ireland. There’s Maureen’s love interest construction worker Pato (Richard Matthews) who leaves the town to better himself and there’s his brother Ray (Harry Mason) who stays in Leenane content with Australian soap operas on TV and the odd game of swing ball.

Pato’s monologue as he writes to Maureen in England encapsulates the broken dreams and high aspirations of the Irish diaspora while Ray’s disjointed conversations symbolise the left behind frustrations of the under employed. Two exceptional and pivotal performances in a production where the cast maintained believable West of Ireland accents throughout aided by accent coach Patrick McGuire – always a tough ask for any actor.

Directed by Claire Rumball, the intensity of the domestic drama could have been lost in the broad space but the attention to detail of the set from its pictures of the Kennedys, damp washing hanging up, ironing board and biscuit tin on the kitchen table coupled with atmospheric lighting (Simon Lawson) kept the audience’s focus on the minutia of the relationship.

The themes in The Beauty Queen of Leenane seem so familiar as almost all families have a form of broken relationship in them. It’s one explored in the 1981 movie Mommy Dearest, and the father-son version in the television sitcom Steptoe and Son, and even in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – the 1962 film featuring the bitter relationship of two sisters. In this excellent production of Martin McDonagh’s play those themes are played out to their violent conclusion with a fine cast who didn’t overplay the Irishness of the setting but concentrated on the bleakness of the comedy.

Harry Mottram

The play runs nightly at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at the Mission Theatre, Bath, until Saturday, September 10th, 2022.  Tickets and information at


Bath Voice Theatre Review: a quartet of female actors punch above their weight in a five star production of Joy Wilkinson’s story of Victorian women boxers at the Mission Theatre

The Sweet Science of Bruising: Anna Lamb spars with Francesca McBride as Violet Hunter

Theatre Review: The Sweet Science of Bruising, The Mission Theatre, Bath

When the boxer Nicola Adams stepped into the ring to fight Ren Cancan for Olympic Gold in 2012 they did so as athletes. No make-up, blow-dried hair or sexy outfits – but simply as the best physical version of themselves in the ultimate female boxing competition. A contest not for the sexual gratification of men but as part of the Olympic Games to be cheered on by boxing enthusiasts around the world.

It has taken decades if not centuries for women in this country to gain equality in law, sports, voting rights, pay and employment – all pioneered from figures such as Mary Wolfstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women to the Suffragettes and the likes of Billy Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in the ‘battle of the sexes’, tennis match in 1973.

In Joy Wilkinson’s play The Sweet Science of Bruising at the Mission Theatre in Bath we are taken back to the turn of the 19th century in a Victorian England where women were beginning to assert their voices in society. And yet they were still largely controlled by men. Step forward showman Professor Charlie Sharp played with a fabulously theatricality by Bob Constantine who stages boxing matches and other entertainments for money. He stumbles upon Polly Stokes through her brother the boxer Paul Stokes and the idea of a female boxing contest is born. Tianna James as Polly is superb as the aspiring athlete as she spars, jabs and punches with total commitment. In contrast Callum Marshall as her brother convinces as the nearly man – who is overshadowed by his sibling – straight roles are always harder to pull off and he also achieves this again as he doubles as Captain Danby.

Bob Constantine enjoyed himself as the showman Professor Charlie Sharp

Another actor playing it straight is Alistair Davey who doubles up as several characters with the impossibly prejudiced and demanding Doctor Forster as being particularly memorable. And completing the unreconstructed Victorian gents is the husband of Anna Lamb played by Harry Mason whose eventual comeuppance was enthusiastically cheered on by the audience. That suggested he had successfully become a hate figure for his despicable behaviour towards Anna – much better than a standing ovation.

Two supporting female roles were Aunt George played by an on-form Sara Keane and the maid played by the appropriately subservient Antonia White. That leaves the quartet of female boxers who constrained by their corsets and controlled by men finish the drama in a rousing corset less finale. Tiana James as Polly was brilliant, Francesca McBride as Violet Hunter was exceptional – and has the added natural ingredient of a slight catch of emotion in her voice which helps convince with her speeches. Anna Lamb was played by Olivia Stiles who rather enjoyed repaying her husband’s bad behaviour with her fists and Matty was given another exceptional performance by the talented Ellie Turner. A cast of all the talents worthy of any professional stage.

A quartet of women boxers in Victorian England heralded the equality in the next century

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Joy Wilkinson’s 2018 drama staged in a traverse setting at the Mission Theatre was Brian Hudd’s direction. He managed to combine the genteel discussions with the extreme physicality required to convince the audience of boxing’s innate violence. Hudd had a good team with fight choreographer Nicky Wilkins essential in making the boxing look and sound real. Chayenne Rogers-Dixon’s videography and imagery projected onto the back wall of the stage added much period detail and atmosphere while the set was minimal allowing for the action to be unrestrained. My only thought was that some form of carpet of covering on the boards would have helped to dampen the constant footsteps of the entrances and exits – although a minor point in a production that was a five star triumph for the Next Stage Theatre Company.

All women and girls should see this play or read the original novel as it highlights the inequalities of the past but also heralds the breakthroughs that were to come with Votes for Women and Barbara Castle’s 1970 Equal Pay Act to the day Nicola Adams could step into a boxing ring, not wearing a corset, but as an athlete ready to perform as a professional boxer.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Saturday 2nd July, nightly at 7.30pm.

Details and tickets at

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

More news of Bath’s chic community in Bath Voice magazine – now out – or read online at

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit and follow him on all social media sites.


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Bath Voice Theatre Review: From the first performance of a play in Australia to Laurence Olivier in  the NT’s ‘63 production, George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer still packs them in – even in a field in Somerset

The Recruiting Officer: Captain Brazen and Captain Plume about to cross swords

Theatre Review: The Recruiting Officer. School Fields, Badgworth, Somerset

Convicts in Australia regained their self-esteem by acting in George Farquhar’s play about sex, Shrewsbury and soldiers, when the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, as The Recruiting Officer is a window into the cynical and nakedly humorous motives of men and women in search of love, status and money.

First produced in 1706 the Restoration Comedy is the story of officers using the recruitment of new soldiers as a chance for womanising and corruption. And the women they are after are just as wily as the uniformed protagonists. The drama hinges on misunderstandings, cross-dressing and cynical attempts to get rich through marriage with true love triumphing in the end.

Rose with her basket of chicken in The Recruiting Officer

Rain and Shine’s production mixes high comedy with Anthony Young enjoying himself as Melinda’s comically opportunist maid and the wonderfully foppish Rob Keeves as Captain Brazen with authentic power dressing costumes and military accessories.

With just seven in the cast director Jonathan Legg made good use of the entrances and exits, and 18th century outfits and wigs to define the stock characters. Emily Morozow was excellent value as the rich heiress Melinda and was equally committed to playing the haughty wench Rose, managing to inject a spicy venom into her character’s lines and body language.

Left: Anthony Young as an unlikely maid

Ian Alldis as the towering NCO Sergeant Kite barked his orders with military grade decibels while the versatile John Cooper-Evans played three roles as Thomas Appletree, Mr Worthy and Valentine Steward, defining each part with clarity.

Pippa Meekings had the most fun as the heroine Sylvia Balance who is enthralled with the handsome Captain Plume played by the dashingly good-looking Ashley Shiers by donning a moustache and breeches and returning as Jack Wilful. A handsome couple indeed.

Recruiting under way

Written more than a century after Shakespeare’s heyday The Recruiting Officer has remained a popular comedy despite the two-dimensional characters and complex plotting. It’s core theme of seeking a better life through hitching up with someone of a higher status due to their wealth and good looks is as universal as the competing contestants in ITV’s Love Island or Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle.

Pippa Meekings as Sylvia

The public’s appetite for handsome men in uniform, glamorous women, class, romantic rivalry and love triangles remains as strong today in Badgworth’s School Gardens as it did in the National Theatre’s 1963 production with Laurence Olivier as Brazen and in Botany Bay in 1787 when the transported convicts re-discovered their humanity in performing theatre.

Harry Mottram

The play is on tour until September in outdoor venues across England this summer with dates near to Bath in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. For a full list, tickets and information visit

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

More news of Bath’s chic community in Bath Voice magazine – now out – or read online at

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit and follow him on all social media sites.


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Bath Voice Theatre Reviews: after a two-year absence due to the Covid crisis the Theatre Royal audience goes crazy for the Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society’s latest production: Crazy For You

Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society performing Crazy For You. Photo credit: Ken Abbott

Crazy For You – Review

At last: chorus girls, cowboys, tap dancing and some big song and dance routines in a show to lift the spirits.  The Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society returned triumphantly to the Theatre Royal Bath after a two-year Covid related absence with George and Ira Gershwin’s big song and dance show Crazy for You.

Rosie May Cook as Polly Baker in Crazy For You

A near full house lapped up classic numbers like I Got Rhythm, K-ra-zy For You, Nice Work If You Can Get It and They Can’t Take That Away From Me, in a foot tapping finger clicking production based on a 1930s show put together in the early 1990s on Broadway. Directed by Steve Blackmore, choreographed by Annette Wilsher and music direction by Peter Blackwood this is a production that does justice to the smash hit musical revival. Crazy For You has an impressive set, superb lighting and sound plus authentic costumes including fabulous chorus girl outfits and enough feathers to clothe several birds of paradise and it’s a show that sends the audience home with a song in their heart. I can vouch for that as several people were humming I Got Rhythm as I crossed Saw Close after the show.

Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society performing Crazy For You. Photo credit: Ken Abbott

Arnie Richardson as protagonist Bobby Child, the banker who wants to be a stage star held the key role with aplomb, strong vocals, unbounded energy and a winning personality. He was ably supported by an exceptional Rosie May Cook as Polly Baker his love interest in Deadrock. She has the voice and personality required to knock ‘em dead – and a huge role to carry through the two-hour long show.

The story follows the fortunes of Bobby who is sent to foreclose on a theatre in the far west – only to see it as a chance to revive the establishment with a hit show. And the rest is as you might expect as the story is one of mistaken identities, unlikely romances and above all song and dance that whirls the narrative from a lively start to a rousing finale – all laced with knockabout humour.

Crazy For You – Rosie May Cook as Polly Baker and Arnie Richardson as Bobby Child – BODS at TRB – Credit Ken Abbott

Annabel Latham as Irene Roth was great value in her pursuit of wedding bells finally settling for Pip Knowles who enjoyed himself as Lank Hawkins and Grant McCotter as impresario Bela Zangler was also on top form. So many strong performances such as Jane Morgan as Tess, Chris Born and Julia Padfield as the travel writers checking out Deadrock’s attractions, and Huw Morgan as Everett Baker the town’s saloon keeper keen to take over the theatre for himself.

Crazy For You – Arnie Richardson as Bobby Child – BODS at TRB – Credit Ken Abbott

Eye catching Dave Key-Pugh’s hillbilly-esque Moose gave another big performance as did Lottie Child played by Barbara Ingeldew, with support from Finn Cunningham-Tickel as Mingo (and understudy for the lead) and Ashley Viner as Sam.

Crazy For You – Rosie May Cook as Polly Baker – BODS at TRB – Credit Ken Abbott

Crazy For You is essentially a revival of the spirit of those big Ziegfeld Follies productions of the 1920s and 1930s with their cast of chorus girls known as the Follies – and this production delivers those deftly choreographed sequences brilliantly using the wide stage to great effect. With several changes of costumes, great dancing and strong stage presence these big song and dance numbers make this show so memorable. The Follies are complemented by the Cowboys in Deadrock whose humour and languid body language is transformed at the mention of girls into over excited teenage boys desperate to touch a certain part of the female anatomy. An ensemble cast also included an eight strong Ensemble to complete the show and give Bath a much-needed shot of glamour, romance, comedy and showbiz. Yes, one to lift the spirits.

Harry Mottram

The show runs from 3-7 May, 2022

Tickets and info at

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

More news of Bath’s chic community in Bath Voice magazine – now out – or read online at

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit and follow him on all social media sites.


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BATH VOICE: Georgian Bath was smelly, dangerous and dirty – so unlike the friendly characters in the Jane Austen Centre

From left: Mr Darcy, Mrs Bennet and George Knightley at the Jane Austen Centre

By Harry Mottram: Like many people I’ve passed the Jane Austen Centre many times without having visited.
Since I’m midway through the Jane Austen novel Northanger Abbey I decided to pop in one wet March afternoon to see if I could meet the great author.
Sadly the writer of a string of classic novels had a day off but I did catch up with Jackie Herring who is Mrs Bennet to the visitors.
“Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey would have noticed that the traffic today is just as bad as it was in her day,” she said, “but the centre of Bath was also like a building site in Jane Austen’s time with speculative building go up everywhere.
“It would also have been very dirty and dangerous with animals making a mess. That was one of the reasons why sedan chairs were used so the well heeled wealthy didn’t have to put their feet down in the muck or allow their dresses to pick up mud.”
The former director of the Jane Austen Festival spends one day a week with her work husband Mr Bennet at the centre following retirement and clearly enjoys her role as the sufferer of palpitations and agent for her daughters’ marriage prospects.
Another character who enjoys welcoming visitors – this time from the novel Emma – was my tour guide George Knightley (Martin Williamson in real life).
His talk on the Austen family and the various relatives is worth the ticket money alone which for someone of my advanced age is £11.50.
I mentioned I was reading Northanger Abbey.
“It was a send up of popular Gothic novels,” he exclaimed, “although it was written in 1803 it was published after Jane’s death in 1817.”
Following his talk I took in the huge amount of information available as videos, exhibits, paintings and prints, ending up via the tea rooms in the gift shop.
But not before meeting Fitzwilliam Darcy who it is fair to say, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good looks and a good job at the Jane Austen Centre, must be in want of a wife.

The play is on tour until April – see

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

More news of Bath’s chic community in Bath Voice magazine – now out – or read online at

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit and follow him on all social media sites.


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