Tag Archives: London


It seems like a short while ago I saw you as a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland starring as the Emcee in Cabaret. Tell us what happened between then and starring in the West End.

Ahhhh amazing, you got to see Cabaret! Definitely one of my favourite parts I ever got to play. So, round about that same time I also signed with a London agent and started to get auditions coming through, including auditions for Mamma Mia! in London and for the tour. I didn’t get past the first round and just kind of forgot about it. I graduated in July 2016, and almost immediately booked my first professional job in London, Floyd Collins at the Wiltons Music Hall. Once that finished, I was back in Scotland at the Tron Theatre for Christmas, in the The Snaw Queen, followed immediately after by Still Game:Live at The SSE Hydro. Luckily, I hadn’t really stopped, and so made the move back to London to start auditioning again. Cut to two months later, and a few rounds of auditions for Mamma Mia! again, and suddenly I was going to be Sky in the West End!

Georgina Castle & Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sophie and Sky
London Cast 2017/2018

Tell us how you felt when you got the call to say you’d be making your professional West End debut.

Well it was about a week after the finals for Mamma Mia!, and I was sort of waiting to hear about a couple of things. When my agent phoned, she said ‘So, do you want some good news?’ and I’m pretty sure I swore at her down the phone and yelled a bit. I was honestly jumping about my house, totally ecstatic. Cliché as it is, this was something I had been wanting and dreaming of ever since I was little and so for that dream to become a reality at the age of 22 is just really special for me. I’m grateful every day.

How are you enjoying playing Sky?

It’s bloody brilliant! I’m honestly having such a good time. Everyone that works at the Novello, the cast, creatives and crew are an absolute joy to work with, and there is a total family vibe amongst us all. We get such amazing audiences every night, and even though it’s been running in the West End for 18 years, there is still something really fresh and new about our cast which is so exciting. When we first took over in June, we performed a slot at West End Live, which is sort of a concert weekend in Trafalgar Square where musicals all around the UK and in central London perform. That was a pretty special moment, singing and dancing an Abba megamix to thousands of people.

Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sky (front centre)

What do you think makes Mamma Mia! so enduringly popular?

There are so many elements I think. The songs come first obviously. You get the sexiness of things like Gimme Gimme! and Voulez Vous, and then also the heart from songs like Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All. Then you have the story which interweaves these songs seamlessly in a way that lots of jukebox musicals are unable to do. It’s a story about mothers and daughters, about strong female friendship, and about empowerment of women. Certainly back when it was first conceived, there wouldn’t have been many stories like it, and only really now is that starting to change. It’s just such an awesomely feel good show, which makes every audience member leave with a huge grin on their face. They get to escape to a beautiful Greek island for two and half hours, what’s not to love?! People need escape like that more than ever these days, so I’m glad I can contribute to that.

What is life like backstage at the Novello?

Well I’m lucky enough to get a dressing room to myself next to the stage on the ground floor. It’s not a huge room, so I tend to keep the door wedged open and slowly over time it has sort of changed into a mini green room for the other company members to chill in when they aren’t needed on stage. I have a bit of time in between the things I’m involved in on stage so I’m happy for the chat. Usually backstage totally runs like clockwork, everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to be but every so often it becomes a bit hectic. We have two large set pieces that are moved around on stage with handles to create different scenes and environments. One Saturday one of the handles broke off and the pieces couldn’t move. We had to completely make up the rest of the show without them working or moving, which was fun!

London Cast 2017/2018

How do you keep your performance fresh when you’re on stage eight times a week?

Good question. This is first contract I’ve had which is a year long, so I’m still finding that out to be honest. Something I try to do before going on every night is remind myself that all the events that happen during the show are happening for the first time, so I don’t pre-empt anything, and that usually makes me present. That, and just constantly being open to reacting to whatever Sophie or whoever I’m with and what they’re giving me. That makes it fun every night because you don’t know what you are going to get. And if something is a bit rubbish one night, or something goes wrong, you get to try again tomorrow and be better!

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to becoming one?

I don’t know if anything particularly inspired me to become an actor, I think I was always pretty sure that was what I wanted to do since I was a little guy. I was put into local amateur shows and went to youth drama groups/theatre schools. Music and drama was something I always kind of excelled in at school, so it started to become obvious what path I was going down. It was a way to express myself whilst growing up, when I didn’t particularly know how to yet. If I didn’t have those groups and shows, I think being a teenager would have been a lot harder. I guess the teachers and friends that were in my life during that time inspired me to pursue it professionally. Oh and my uncle Alan. He was the one who introduced me to a lot of theatre and has always been my biggest fan. He’s a big inspiration for all this.

Do you have any advice for kids back home who aspire to become a performer?

If you love it, pursue it. There are so many ways to become part of theatre and the arts professionally, which many kids aren’t made aware of in schools. Actors, musicians, hair and makeup, production, agents, casting, it’s all out there. Do not let your parents try and choose your pathways for you, and make you do something you don’t want to; you’ll be unhappy. I was lucky enough to be fully supported by my family in all my endeavours but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I remember my guidance teacher told me that I shouldn’t do music AND drama at the same time in school, and made it out that it was practically impossible to pursue a career in it. Needless to say, I didn’t listen to her. Even if you aren’t the best at everything to begin with, keep learning and growing and trying, because you eventually start to get somewhere. Don’t settle, and go chase your dreams; it can happen!

Christopher Jordan-Marshall (front centre) Mamma Mia! 2017/2018 Cast

Finally, why should people come along to see you in Mamma Mia!?

Our cast is amazing, there’s topless boys, and the tunes are amazing obviously. I also keep my Scottish accent so SCOTLAND REPRESENT. Come get drunk (if you’re over 18) and dance!!

You can see Christopher at the Novello Theatre – more information here

Image credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg


REVIEW: NT Live Hamlet – Barbican, London

What do I think? Well, it can be boiled down to one simple sentence: an outstanding Hamlet in a massively flawed production.

There are few productions in recent history that have garnered as much press as Lyndsey Turner’s Hamlet, well I say Turner’s Hamlet, but this is very much Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, Turner’s subsequent production (Tipping the Velvet at the Lyric Hammersmith) opened last month to very little ado, and it is undoubtedly Cumberbatch’s name attached to the production that has sparked the ticket buying frenzy.


Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet | Image – Johan Persson

There’s the issue of reviews being posted during the preview period (the counter argument to this being that the producers were charging full price for tickets, unlike normal practice during previews and therefore, fair game). It is also well-documented that the changes the director made with the text were not well-received, though, it seems that much of what irked the most has been removed but, does what has now been presented as the finished product, measure up?


Anastasia Hille as Gertrude | Image – Johan Persson

Firstly, NT Live is a wonderful thing, a strange, but wonderful thing. It affords the thousands of us who didn’t get tickets to a production a chance to see what all the fuss is about, however, it can be a strange, detached experience which lacks the atmosphere and absorption that live performance provides. (I’ve also got a personal gripe about the quality of the filming which in my experience can be grainy and lack sharpness).

Opening to the strains of Nature Boy is at first thought unusual, but actually is really rather perfect, as the lyrics testify:

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

However, this is one of the only examples of where the liberties taken with the order of the text or the directorial choices add anything to the production. It matters not a jot whether you are familiar or unfamiliar with the work, if you know it, you might spend your time as I did, trying to work out the  jigsaw puzzle of what should have gone where or you might just be plain old lost. Lindsey Turner obviously has a mind brimming with ideas, but there are too many of them and not all of them thought through or carried out effectively. I am at a loss to understand how making a work more incoherent makes it better. All those glorious and oft-quoted lines are here – just not where you expect them to be.

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Ciaran Hinds as Claudius | Image – Johan Persson

One aspect of the production which is spectacularly effective is Es Devlin’s monumental set.The sheer size and scope of it is breathtaking, it is beautiful and moodily atmospheric, so absorbing is it that it is often more interesting than what’s going on on top of it.

I can’t help thinking that the actors have been done a great disservice here, the universally outstanding cast is lost in the mire of all this trying-to-be-cleverness. The relationships between key characters don’t feel fully-formed because of all the chopping and changing and by the time the final scene comes it is rendered strangely unmoving.


Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes | Image – Johan Persson


Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a gripping Laertes, but his onstage time is limited, Sian Brooke is convincingly disturbed as Ophelia and the rest of the cast, both featured and ensemble deliver solid and often highly emotive performances.


Sian Brooke as Ophelia | Image – Johan Persson

Cumberbatch is outstanding, it is a perfectly judged performance infused with humour as well as great sensitivity, he is at all times, even in the depths of his ‘madness’, real and entirely believable, there are no histrionics, nothing is overblown, the hurt, the sadness and the madness are utterly relatable, the biggest compliment I can give is that it is a truly ‘human’ performance.

cumberbatch hamlet red tunic

If you get a chance to see the NT Encore screenings from 22 October then do so – for all its faults don’t miss one of the greatest actors of a generation deliver a near-perfect performance. Just pray that it won’t be long before Cumberbatch returns to the stage.

NT Live information: here

REVIEW: Gypsy – Savoy Theatre, London

What more can be said about Gypsy?, save for the fact that it is all it is hyped up to be: a great big, ballsy, barnstorming, bravura performance by the brilliant Imelda Staunton in the musical many regard as the greatest ever written and astonishing that it has been over 40 years since its one and only appearance on the London stage.

Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre  Imelda Staunton as Rose,  ©Alastair Muir 15.04.15

Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre
Imelda Staunton as Rose,
©Alastair Muir 15.04.15

National treasure Staunton is in equal measure terrifying and electrifying as the showbiz mom to end all showbiz moms. She veers from comical pluckiness to frightening forcefulness throughout, but there are moments too of genuine tenderness in her relationship with the long suffering Herbie, her much put-upon beau.



The book by Arthur Laurents and the music and lyrics from Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim perfectly encapsulates the Vaudeville era, the desperation to ‘make it’, grab a buck wherever you can, travelling the vast expanse of the US from the dustbowl to the down at heel playhouses, scrabbling for a slot to show your wares and pay for your next meal.

Gypsy at The Savoy Theatre Imelda Staunton as Rose, Lara Pulver as Louise ©Alastair Muir 15.04.15

Gypsy at The Savoy Theatre
Imelda Staunton as Rose, Lara Pulver as Louise
©Alastair Muir 15.04.15

Though it is very much Staunton’s show, she is more than ably supported by Lara Pulver as Louise the daughter who eventually morphs from overlooked tomboy to the world’s most famous strip tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, Gemma Sutton as favoured daughter June – still pretending to be nine years old when she’s clearly on the cusp of womanhood and Peter Davison as the affable and loyal Herbie. Credit must also go to the child actors of Rose’s ragbag vaudeville troupe  who provide much of the first act laughs.

This is a work of infinite quality topped off with one of the finest musical theatre performances you are ever likely to see. Truly unmissable.

Runs until 28 November 2015

REVIEW: Bend It Like Beckham – Phoenix Theatre, London

Gurinder Chadha’s adaptation of her own 2002 movie Bend It Like Beckham misses the goalposts more than it hits the back of the net.

Jess Bhamra (Natalie Dew) is an 18 year old football fanatic from Southall, the daughter of strict Punjabi Sikh parents and forbidden from playing the beautiful game. Her skills come to the attention of Jules (Lauren Samuels), who persuades her to try out for semi-pro team the Hounslow Harriers. Cue deception, love, heartbreak and acceptance all dished up to a Bhangra beat.


Running at nearly three hours, there is too much padding and not enough drive in this musical re-working of Gurinder Chadha and husband Paul Mayeda Berges’ movie. It gets off to a woefully slow start and its lacklustre score and hugely stereotypical characterisations do nothing to elevate it above being a reasonably pleasant way to kill three hours.


Howard Goodall’s Indian-infused score is repetitive and lacks the requisite number of big tunes a new musical needs, save the soaring and anthemic ‘Glorious’, there is little that sticks in the memory other than the hugely annoying ‘Girl Perfect’ which lodges in the brain for all the wrong reasons and, like many of the other songs, is repeated incessantly throughout. Charles Hart’s lyrics do little to help, being simplistic rather than sophisticated. One song that does linger in the memory though, is the haunting ‘Heer’, a 500 year old traditional Indian love song.

Lauren Samuels (Jules) and Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical. Photo credit  Ellie Kurttz_0

Natalie Dew is a suitably wide-eyed and innocent heroine and is ably supported by Lauren Samuels as fellow tomboy Jules and the rest of the cast are amiable enough, and of fine voice (especially Preeya Kalidas as Barbie doll sister Pinky and Tony Jayawardena as Mr. Bhamra) however, at times too much mugging goes on: the blame for this though can be laid squarely at the fact that the characters are two-dimensional and much too thinly written. Twilight and Harry Potter actor Jamie Campbell Bower as coach Joe, though competent, barely registers after the event.

Miriam Buether’s two tier, semi-circular, rotating set is rather simplistic and on the cheap looking side, but it is eye-poppingly bright and cheerful. The costumes by Katrina Lindsay didn’t need much work being either football kit, traditional sari or early 2000’s lycra and bling.


The whole endeavour is pleasant enough but nothing more, it is bright, brash, not exactly brain taxing and runs far too long into extra time, and I wonder how much life it will have ultimately.

REVIEW: The Elephant Man – Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play charting the life of Joseph Merrick, lacks narrative drive and its stereotypical portrayal of Victorian society is dated, but the whole endeavour is resoundingly saved by two compelling central performances from Bradley Cooper and Alessandro Nivola. 


Cooper has stated that at age 12, it was John Hurt’s 1980 performance in David Lynch’s film version of The Elephant Man that made him decide to become an actor, he also performed the role for his master’s thesis at New York’s Actors Studio. Having previously appeared at both the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2012 and on Broadway in 2014, Cooper, director Scott Ellis and his team complete their “amazing journey” by bringing the play home to London.

cooper 2

Pomerance’s play takes Merrick from the squalor and inhuman treatment as a side-show freak, his “saving” by Dr. Frederick Treves, to celebrity and patronage by the scions of Victorian society.

Cooper uses only gesture and mannerism in an impressive physical display, to portray Merrick, and it is a hugely sensitive, brilliantly subtle and deeply affecting performance delivered with an impeccable English accent. It is a performance of such quality that it immediately dispels any worries that this is a mere vanity project for the double Oscar nominee.

elephant man bradley cooper

The action is played out with minimal props on a sparse wooden boarded stage, the scenes changing with a swish of the onstage muslin curtains, it is a small scale play and it benefits from this intimate chamber staging.

elephant man cooper

Whilst the acting abilities of Cooper and Nivola (Treves) are in no doubt, the play itself is problematic: the pace is laboured throughout despite the scenes being played out in short sharp bursts, and the narrative lacks drive, it ambles along perfectly pleasantly but it lacks light and shade and the treatment of the subject matter is either superficial or heavy handed. That said, I defy anyone not to be moved at by the close of Act One and the declaration by Merrick “sometimes I think my head is so big because it is so full of dreams”.


A beautifully judged, and perfectly delivered performance from Cooper let down by a dated play.

Runs until 8th August 2015


REVIEW: Beautiful – Aldwych Theatre, London

A little lacking in plot, it is the star-making turn of Katie Brayben which elevates Beautiful above your common or garden jukebox musical.

"'Beautiful-The Carole King Musical' Play performed at the Aldwych Theatre, London, UK"

Tracking the life and career of Carol King, from prodigiously talented child, through her teenage marriage to fellow Brooklyn resident and musical genius Gerry Goffin, (the songs come easy but King’s personal life fails to mirror her chart success) to her subsequent solo career and the record-breaking (25 million copies sold) 1971 album Tapestry.

While the book fails to really sparkle, the music and the acting deliver entertainment in spades.


Throw into the mix the friendly rivalry between Goffin and King and fellow hit factory pairing Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and the hits just keep on coming.


There’s Neil Sedaka, the shiny-suited Drifters, The Shirelles resplendent in bubblegum pink satin, the Righteous Brothers and Little Eva to name only a few. And the songs, oh, what songs: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, On Broadway, The Locomotion, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Natural Woman and You’ve Got a Friend are just a few, and hearing these classic hits delivered with such care and enthusiasm, is a tonic for even the hardest of hearts.

drifters beautiful musicalrighteous brothers beautiful the musical london

beautiful londonBeautiful fails to scratch any deeper than the surface but it is an undeniably entertaining night at the theatre with an outstanding cast and score: Brayben, Alan Morrissey as Gerry Goffin and Ian McIntosh & Lorna Want as Mann & Weill are exceptionally talented (as are the supporting cast). An utter joy for the ears, it should be praised for throwing King, this hugely talented woman, centre stage and firmly in the spotlight where she and her world-beating music deserve to be.


REVIEW: Memphis – Shaftesbury Theatre, London

Six months on and Memphis still has the audience rocking in the aisles. This story of the birth of rock and roll may appear on the outside to look like just another jukebox musical but in reality, with its uplifting book by Joe DiPietro and original score from Bon Jovi’s David Bryan, that couldn’t be further from the truth.


It’s 1955 and poor white boy, local music fan turned DJ, Huey Calhoun is on an one man mission to bring “race music” to the masses in the segregated Deep South. Frequenting the black music clubs on Beale Street, Huey discovers singer Felicia and starts her on the road to success, but along the way Huey falls for Felicia and the pair’s relationship has to fight hard to survive in this racial hotbed.


A fictionalised account of a time in the US when barriers were beginning to be broken but with an establishment that still bolstered the barricades it manages to make its point without ramming it down your throat. There’s a helluva lot of sentimentality here but the message still gets through and to its credit, it manages to eschew the schmaltzy happy ever after ending whilst still managing to send you back onto the street on an emotional high.


The music is an on-period delight: there’s blues, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and some heart-breaking ballads too.

There is an exuberant energy throughout and the cast look as if they are having the time of their lives, which then transmits throughout the auditorium (on the night I attended the audience were particularly enthused – so much so the cast felt the need to Tweet their appreciation after the curtain fell). They are also, undoubtedly, the strongest voiced ensemble on the West End stage at the moment – so much so that it feels like a wave of electricity hitting you as each number is performed. Brisk doesn’t describe the direction by Christopher Ashley, break-neck would be nearer the truth: the time goes by so quickly and the action moves at such a pace that you land back on the street exhausted and sightly stunned.


It is the principle pairing of Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly that makes this an absolute winner. Knight’s voice is truly outstanding and the power she manages to muster from her tiny frame is stunning, but it is Donnelly who really steals the show and the audience’s hearts. His charm and charisma as well as his comic timing and knock-out voice are a winning combination.

Like every other show it’s not without its faults but they’re few and far between and the sheer sense of joy it leaves you with is worth the price of a ticket any day.

REVIEW: Forbidden Broadway – Vaudeville Theatre, London

Since 1981 Gerard Alessandrini’s hysterically funny revue, Forbidden Broadway has been delighting audiences with its pin-sharp parodies of the great and the good of the musical theatre world.

Forbidden Broadway by Gerard Alessandrini. Anna Jane Casey, Damian Humbley, Ben Lewis and Christina Bianco. Credit Alastair Muir.

Known for its biting satire, (it spares no-one, not even the most beloved of performers or shows) it is, for the most part, done with genuine affection. This latest (specifically tailored for the West End) edition has transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre for a limited season after a successful run at the Menier Chocolate Factory and it’s a laugh-out-loud winner from start to finish.


The cast sing, dance and act their way through a mind-blowing series of scenes at break-neck speed: The Lion King: “A story so bizarrey, it’s Hamlet on safari” and its cast resplendent in stuffed toy head-dresses crying agonisingly: “Can you feel the sprain tonight?”; a somewhat reduced helicopter scene from Miss Saigon and a “The heat is on in Saigon; is there a tune going on?”; The Sondheim parody “Into the Words”; a sweeping dismissal of Once: “once is enough”; Jersey Boys: “Walk like a man, sing like a girl”; Les Mis, where a bored cast member chats on their iPhone behind the barricade and ends with an “I’ll call you after I die,” Jean Valjean gives it welly in the too high bits and the infamous revolve is mercilessly evoked as the cast belt out a threatening “ten more years, ten years more”; the list goes on an on.


The reason the whole endeavour works so well is the quality of the cast, only those as, if not more, talented than those they parody could possibly get away with this: Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley, Christina Bianco and Ben Lewis are all stars in their own right and each shines.


One word of caution though, the show is aimed squarely at musical theatre aficionados and a broad knowledge of both the West End and Broadway past and present is required to get the best out of it, so if you don’t know your Sondheim from your Miss Saigon then don’t bother. But if you do – don’t miss it.

Runs until 22nd November

REVIEW: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Savoy Theatre, London

Having watched the publicity that surrounded the West End debut of musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (based of course on the 1988 movie of the same name), the big-name cast, the lavish sets, the TV spots, you would be forgiven for thinking that the show was fresh out of the box, but it’s actually been doing the rounds since 2004.

19260_fullIt is an unusual choice for adaptation, while the film is remembered reasonably affectionately it was never an out and out smash and has been reduced to a vague memory 26 years on.

In a nutshell it’s the tale of two seasoned con men and their attempt to hoodwink a millionaire heiress in the spectacular South of France.

19264_fullWhilst an amiable enough evening at the theatre it offers nothing new and manages to distinguish itself only by being one of the most old-fashioned (and not in a good way) and sexist pieces of theatre currently on stage. It’s like a bad 70’s sitcom but this time with expensive sets and a top-rate cast.

It’s greatest redeeming feature is Robert Lindsay in the central role. Despite the rumours of his difficulty to work with, he really does milk this for all its worth. Without him it would be unwatchable.

Pleasant to look at but not a lot more.

REVIEW: The Crucible – The Old Vic, London

The Old Vic’s current revival of The Crucible is the most intensely gripping, thoroughly enthralling, powerful, visceral theatrical production I can remember experiencing.


From the moment you enter the sack cloth draped walls of the auditorium, into the crucible created by this ‘in the round’ staging, the smell of burning embers biting at your nostrils, you are grabbed by the throat and held there on the edge of your seat for over three and a half hours; three and a half hours that fly by in the blink of an eye.


Arthur Miller’s 1953 fictionalised account of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials is both a powerful indictment of the McCarthyism of the era when it was written and the all-too real and present danger of religious extremism in society. In an era defined by religious fervour, the small settlement of Salem is whipped into a frenzy of collective hysteria, paranoia and persecution by a servant girl seeking revenge and a society swayed by superstition.



The Old Vic-The Crucible

The staging is simplistic, focussing attention firmly on the action. Richard Armitage proves to be perfectly cast as the guilt-ridden but fundamentally decent John Proctor. He is a commanding physical presence, magnetic, radiating quiet power throughout, he remains at all times utterly electrifying. He is more than ably supported by his fellow cast members, in particular Anna Madeley as wife Elizabeth, the woman who has driven him to seek comfort elsewhere; Jack Ellis as witch-hunter Danforth and Adrian Schiller as Reverend Hale who fights against the tragic miscarriage of justice.

rsz_07277_the_old_vic_the_crucible_richard_armitage_john_proctor_and_anna_madeley_elizabeth_proctor_photo_credit_johan_persson[1]The ominous feeling of dread builds throughout, tightening its grip moment by moment, until it reaches the devastating climax. As the lights dim at the conclusion you are left emotionally wrung out. This timeless classic is as relevant today as it has always been and this production is completely, utterly and truly unmissable.



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