Spencer Jones is the Herbert in Proper Job at Soho Theatre

Part-kid, part-Mr Bean, part-special case, this comedian takes us on a child-like adventure through life with a wild array of props and toys. Although rarely speaking clearly, his message comes through loud and clear – we are all just big kids!

It’s almost as if he is taking a look at his life from the perspective of his own inner child. In doing so his comedy is given an endearing quality that lights up his oddball persona. He has some great character comedy within him, imitating all of those close to him, by simply using different shaped eyeballs for each character and poking fun at their attitudes and personalities.

There is surgical glove balloon making, mouths on sticks, and plenty of playing with toys – the groan sticks and those from the west country are highlights.   Spencer imbues these with a renewed sense of fun. He ends the show with a great musical finale with lots of audience participation in the most random and wonderful ways, bringing home the message that ‘Life is just a game!’

This was a extremely lighthearted and enjoyable, with Spencer, the funny man, at the centre of it all. His style was unique as was his brand of comedy which can be enjoyed by all ages.

Highlight of the show – He and his son at the hospital finally getting the diagnosis from the doctor about his son’s eye problem (unusual appearance) hysterically linked back to an earlier sketch involving a nuclear power plant.

WIGS 4/5

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Richard Gadd: Waiting for Gaddot at Soho Theatre

We’d waited since Edinburgh to see this self-made comedy legend, having been overwhelmed by trying to find the time to see him in a very tight schedule. We’d heard plenty of chat about him on the streets of Edinburgh, so when we found out he was to perform at Soho Theatre we were quick to book!

This show was like no other comedy show we have ever seen. We had a brief glimpse at a review in Edinburgh and knew it wasn’t going to be a regular stand-up comedy routine. Little did we know we were going to be presented with an absolute train wreck of a comedy show, where the title performer arrives at the last minute… As a formula, this was absolute dynamite!

The show builds our excitement and expectation from the word go, with the humorously drawn out ‘please turn your phones off and refrain from talking’ in about seven different languages, to the ensuing trouble the stage manager faces with the absence of Mr. Richard Gadd. Covering for his absence, he tries to lead us through the show, every now and then making contact with Gadd, often in the form of live text messages or telephone calls. He shows us some home-made sketches and we are shown, on video, Gadd’s mission to get to the venue beginning eight hours before.

Between bawling with laughter and trying to get our breath back, we are left asking if he is ever actually going to turn up, does he even exist, or is he just a strange imagined character of this completely inept but hysterical stage manager?

This is more than just a one-man show. This is a budding comedy group, of which Gadd is the star. There is a heckler (Ian Smith) an ‘usher’ (Edward Aczel) and his stage manager (Ben Target), who are all part of the show, not to mention a violinist, the technician and, of course, Richard’s dad!

By the time Gadd arrives, the anticipation and excitement almost blow the roof of the house as he then tries to fit his entire act into nine minutes – a hilarious attempt at accelerated comedy. To us, not knowing much about the man or his comedy, he has created a show, in which before he even reaches the building he has become a comedy legend.

By breaking every single model for a comedy show, Gadd has cemented his place in GingerWig comedy folklore with a show that absolutely wowed Edinburgh and is now doing the same at the Soho Theatre. This guy is going to the top. Extended run? Channel 4? Hollywood? The constant references to a future career were cheeky but at the same time an honest pursuit of the future he deserves.

Will we ever see another comedy show like this? Not for a long time I’m sure. Richard Gadd: Waiting for Gaddot is on at the Soho Theatre in London until the 7th November.

Highlights of the Show – Gadd’s actual arrival, what Ben the stage manager’s parents call him, Gadd’s dad, and generally the man himself for this astounding performance.

WIGS 5/5

All That Lives by Tatty Hennessy at the Ovalhouse

All That Lives

This was our first trip to the Ovalhouse to see a brand new play by Tatty Hennessy. The basis of the play was the life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used by medical research long after she was dead, without her express consent. The play started in the present day with a daughter dealing with her mother’s approaching death from cancer. When she finds out that cells from her mother have been used by at least ten companies she starts to question one of the companies doing the research. ‘All That Lives’ was presented as part of The Ovalhouse’s FiRST BiTES programme of new works-in-development.

The narrative questioned the nature of the consent we give when our bodies are used for medical research and how we give it. The mother had clearly signed a consent form, which expressly gave permission for her cells to be used. As a result we felt little sympathy for the daughter and her pointless fight. This was best articulated by the head of the research company who tells the daughter that it would be better to spend time with her mother in her last days shoring up their memories, as opposed to getting involved in an expensive legal battle that she is bound to lose.

The play jumped back and forth between the modern day, and the much more interesting story of Henrietta Lacks, taking a brief look at her life and what happened to her cells. It was here that the play really worked and we only wish more of the story could have been devoted to this as opposed to the modern one. There was also a look at the life of the two men who used Henrietta’s cells to create medical history, with the cells being used to find a cure for polio and many other things. This was another interesting story that seemed to peter out just when it got dramatic with the revelation that George Gey, the man who created the immortalised human cell line had got cancer himself.

Special mentions must be made of Kayla Meikle and Nathanael Campbell for their portrayal of the Lacks and for bringing lots of drama to the piece in their encounters. Nathanael also brought some much needed light relief as a lawyer. Another mention can be given to Christopher Levens for his solid performance and his solid American accent. An area where others struggled, he nailed the accent. Finally, Katherine Carlton also gave a good performance as Margaret Gey and the head of the research company. Her character, Mrs Gey, should also have been developed more as it cut off at the moment she finds out her husband has cancer. We found it hard to appreciate the performances of the other two actors because their present-day characters seemed implausible.

A good effort at playwriting by Tatty Hennessy, although for us, the focus was slightly off. Furthermore the jumping between America and England was a tough ask for some of the actors, and dodgy accents detracted from the drama itself. That said, this was a young cast with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They have a long way to go in their careers, and we wish everyone involved in ‘All That Lives’ the best.

Dramatic Highlight of the Play – David Lacks’ outburst at the realisation that his wife has cancer: true, powerful and filled with emotion.

WIGS 2/5

Home Free by Lanford Wilson at Etcetera Theatre

Our first encounter with The London Horror Festival at Etcetera Theatre in Camden and it was a very good one at that. Theatrum Veritatus present American Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson’s dark little play – ‘Home Free’. The Theatrum Veritatus focus on bringing together North American and British theatrical traditions and in doing so they have unearthed a real gem for us here in one of Lanford Wilson’s earliest plays first produced in 1964

With a suffocating closeness two siblings try to live out their existence in a small but cluttered playroom. The boy, Lawrence, is suffering from agoraphobia, while his sister, Joanna who is pregnant with his child, seems to be suffering from physical pain. Both characters converse with two imaginary characters, Claypone and Edna, two younger children whom the siblings parent. Trying to exist with any semblance of normalcy is clearly impossible as they face the prospect of being evicted partly because of the imminent arrival of their new baby.

We couldn’t help thinking of Philip Ridley’s play ‘The Pitchfork Disney’ whilst our co-reviewer thought of the novel ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V.C. Andrews, both tales about messed up siblings. Ridley’s play was written just under 25 years ago, whilst Andrews’ was written over 35 years ago. It shows that Wilson was dealing with such issues, incest and agoraphobia, much earlier than most. Both characters in Home Free are extreme realisations of people suffering from mental health problems and downright dysfunctionalism. It is not impossible to imagine people developing such symptoms after a traumatic childhood.

The director, Courtney Larkin, has clearly worked extremely well with the two actors to create a sense of constant tension and general unease whilst conveying a terrible poignancy. With performance so good, it is clear that a lot of work had been down between director and actors on the backstories of their characters. Rob Peacock and Lindsey Huebner play the brother and sister couple, doing exceptionally well to create such believable characters out of two very mad siblings. The way they engaged with the two imaginary characters was so effective it got to the point where we thought we were beginning to see Claypone and Edna.

A great realisation of an old forgotten work. Theatrum Veritatus have an excellent remit of bringing us forgotten North American works and we look forward to seeing their next offering. Congratulations to director Courtney Larkin, actors Rob and Lindsey and everyone else involved in ‘Home Free’, for bringing us this spooky piece.

Dramatic Highlight of the Piece – Lawrence’s opening monologue, giving us an immediate insight into his madness and dysfunctionalism.

WIGS 3/5

Interview with Rob Peacock and Lindsey Huebner of Home Free

After watching Theatrum Veritatus’s version of Lanford Wilson’s ‘Home Free’, we caught up with actors Rob Peacock and Lindsey Huebner to talk to them about the work.

Ginger Wig: Hello Rob and Lindsey thanks for joining us.

Rob & Lindsey: Thanks for having us Ginger Wig!

GW: How did you get involved in this project Rob?

Rob: The director went to the same drama school as me, so she saw a lot of the work I’d done at East 15. She was on the directing course and I was on the acting course…

GW: Hold on a minute you’re not American are you?

Rob: No, no, I’m Welsh.

GW: Bloody hell! (Rob did a fantastic American accent throughout)

Rob: Ye I’m from South Wales. So part of the year we crossed over courses and they directed us so she got to see my work. Apparently she’s wanted to do this script for quite a while. It’s an American play, that first came out in the 60′s, surprisingly enough with the tone. It came out exactly the same time as Tennessee Williams, but this one was performed in Cafés.

GW: So do you two have siblings?

Lindsey: I have a brother and numerous step siblings now.

Rob: I’ve got a younger brother and a younger sister.

GW: How does it feel playing these characters?

Rob: It was fun. First we had a lot of talks about the play, we talked about how old they are, so we made them 24 and 25, around that age, so then we thought, where are their mental states, what age are they really and that was really fun to try and experiment with and see how old mentally they are and it came out like that in the end. They are on two different wavelengths, games are used for different things, a lot of games are just there to block out the actual world, the grown-up world and then some are to get around arguments – I don’t want to talk about horrible things! – let’s play and block it out.

Lindsey: As far as that compares to having your own siblings, I think its just so far from our experiences of having siblings and growing up that it doesn’t even feel like the same thing, because as you said, we did a lot of talking at the beginning to be like what could make someone like this.

GW: What were your thoughts then on your character’s backstories? And also the story going forward. Because the first thing we said when it ended was what happened next?

Lindsey: That’s really cool. A couple of people have said that to us.

Rob: Ye what does happen? Is she dead, does a doctor come? I think we didn’t really talk about that. If you start planning what happened further on, it could affect whats happening now.

Lindsey: I think he just stays there with the rotting body of his sister.

Rob: Until he eventually dies as well.

Lindsey: They have some really dark allusions in the play. Like you should have brought that dead cat here. They have a really weird treatment of these things, like dead bodies and corpses. It isn’t actually one of fear, which you would assume of people with childlike brains. They seem to be ok with some really messed up things, and not others.

Rob: We put a history together, like where they grew up and where their parents are now. There are only one sentence clues in the play. One about the mother being in Hoboken, they say she can’t hear you. So there’s a cemetery in Hoboken…

Lindsey: It’s a really big cemetery.

Rob: Ye it’s a massive cemetery, so people would have got that reference. So mothers dead, let’s just say fathers in prison hinting at why we are having the sort of relationship we are having, I think he was a..

Lindsey: …Destructive force in their lives.

Rob: Ye forcing them to do things that they didn’t necessarily understand from quite a young age.

GW: What drew you to this project Lindsey?

Lindsey: Courtney was the initial impetus behind it and handed over the script. I just like it because I think its such an interesting challenge and just reading it on paper you have no idea whats going on, you can’t even detect the games that they are playing with these lines that repeat themselves. You’re just looking at it thinking what is this? But she had this excitement about this project that really drew me in – there’s something here, there’s something worth exploring – I wanted to find out what it was.

Rob: I saw the opening monologue and was like this is a challenge, a nice chunk of something to play with, the stages that he goes through, that was something I really wanted to do.

GW: It must be tough when you have co-actors who don’t exist? What was his name, Copam?

Rob: Oh, Claypone, ye, which isn’t a word in any language!

GW: It must be tough trying to track an imaginary character?

Rob: We did that in rehearsals, we just talked to them. Let’s have them there, but we also discussed that with kids you wouldn’t necessarily know where they had walked to unless that’s part of the game, you can follow them walking, so we had some versions where they would just disappear there and then reappear there, because its better for that character to have them next to them. The ‘poof’ is what we called it.

We all laugh.

GW: It’s weird to think that two people can share an imaginary friend. I guess that’s a testament to the relationship that this brother and sister have which is very… messed up?

Lindsey: There’s one line at the begging where Joanna gets offended, about something that Edna has said over there. The game is usually something that can catch the other person out, without really making to much of a thing out of it. So then there will be some exposition like – you really can’t say those things – and Lawrence will be like – ye, you really can’t say those things – but we bring the other person in on it. As soon as you’re playing by yourself it’s no fun anymore right?

Rob: It’s all games. What’s really nice about the play is its dark topic, with the incest but then its all covered in games and playing.

Lindsey: So it’s not like being down in the dumps doing Hamlet every night because we just get to run around the stage and be kids for a while and the effect is a dark one but not necessarily what we’re doing.

GW: Ye don’t go method with it!

Lindsey: (Through laughter) Oooooo, (suddenly serious but in jest) hopefully not!

More laughter.

GW: So finally, have you guys got any upcoming projects?

Lindsey: Well I am working with Courtney again for the Voila Festival, which is a French works festival in London at the Cockpit Theatre. We are doing it on November 5th and November 12th. It’s a brand new Canadian piece and its just been translated from its original French version to an English version. Our connection is we went to school together and university together back in Montreal, so this is all Montreal community coming over to London, because as you may have seen, the mantra for this company is having a cultural exchange between North America, specifically Canada, and the UK, so its kind of the epitome of that.

GW: Awesome we haven’t seen nearly enough Canadian work!

Lindsey: They are all somewhat dark it seems.

We laugh.

Rob: Myself, I’ve got a few ideas up in the air. There’s a few films I’ve done earlier in the year that are waiting to be finished and come out later this year. There’s one called ‘Peacock Feathers’.

Lindsey: That’s so apropos your last name.

Rob: I know, Rob Peacock in ‘Peacock Feathers’. It’s about a set of twins, of which I play both of them, so there’s some Tom Hardy stuff.

Lindsey: He got the idea from you!

We all laugh.

Rob: Ye exactly! So that’s what I’m waiting to come out and then still auditioning and trying to get some more stuff for the end of the year.

GW: Wicked. Well thank you both for your time and well done again with tonights performance.

Rob: Thank you Ginger Wig!

Lindsey: Thank you so much for coming out to see it.

GW: All the best to both of you with your careers!

Catch Lindsey and Courtney at the Voila Festival with ‘I’m Not Here’ at the Cockpit Theatre at 7:30pm on the 5th November or 9pm on Thursday 12th November.

Ubu and the Truth Commission by Handspring Puppet Company at The Print Room

It was with much anticipation that we returned to the Print Room in Notting Hill to witness the second show of their autumn season. Ubu And The Truth Commission is a combination of puppetry, live performance, animation, song and buffoonery that tells the story of Pa Ubu and his culpability during the apartheid era in South Africa and his participation in the hearings of the truth and reconciliation committee. The work was presented as part of Suspense Festival which showcases some of the best new puppetry, physical theatre and narrative performance across London.

The title character is based largely on an earlier work by Alfred Jarry, who created the greedy and infantile buffoon King Ubu Roi. His iconic form, big bellied with a spiral pattern on his tummy and a conical head, appears a lot during the animation and live action. This piece used so many different elements. It is commendable that it never felt disjointed and in fact every layer of performance added more to the piece.

The show is created by Handspring Puppet Company, the South African puppeteers made famous for creating War Horse with the National Theatre, and is directed by renowned South African director, William Kentridge. It is intended to inform and educate us about the the past but it also entertains and inspires. Jane Taylor’s text is guided by William Kentridge to produce a wonderful narrative filled with symbolism, which both delicately and jarringly, trace the course of one high ranking officer and his involvement in the atrocities of apartheid and his response to the setting up of the commission.

Real evidence from the commission is used and delivered in Afrikaans and then translated. The story has features that would have been common to many of the stories heard by the commission. All who came before them faced the immense gravity of a decision whether or not to conceal or divulge evidence. Was their honour greater than their fear?

The puppetry was incredibly inventive with two of the puppets made out of briefcases and bags, able to swallow up evidence, and then a selection of human puppets used to recount evidence at the hearings. Finally, a vulture puppet presides over the proceedings. We wish we had seen more involvement by this puppet.

The imagery and symbolism of the horrors of apartheid were dramatically illustrated by the animation that mixed with real footage and other devised imagery. We were reminded of Terry Gilliam’s animations for Monty Python, possibly an influence on the animators. However, it had its own style using only black and white, a clear reference to race. The spider-like camera tripod, the Ubu Roi character and the dancing cat added dark humour, that contrasted with more graphic imagery.

The acting, voices and manipulation of the puppets had a realism and magic that created a dark world with moments of light. Maybe that was the overriding message that oppression and brutality can be overcome. Furthermore, the use of truth commissions rather than criminal trials and investigation is surely a better route for reconciling polarised communities. Surely it’s a more transforming experience for everyone. Even if some people do sail off into the sunset…

The Print Room has its new venue in the Coronet and although it is crumbling to pieces, the fading grandeur creates a wonderful space to enjoy theatre. The only thing they need to tighten up is audience re-admittance.  Whilst some ‘tired’ people left the show, at least three re-entered generally disturbing the audience.  On a more positive note, the ‘new’ Print Room, must have one of the best theatre bars in the whole world: it almost feels like you are stepping onto a fully set stage – a gorgeous use of the original stalls space.

More importantly though, great work from The Print Room for getting this exceptional puppet company in. Handspring Puppet Company have created a remarkable piece in its inventiveness, honesty and spectacle using a fantastic combination of forms, for this surreal yet honest examination of South Africa’s history.

Highlights of the show – Far too many: the shower scene coupled with the metaphorical animations, both songs by Ubu and the dogs, Ubu’s final speech for the commission with the unfavorable microphones and the entrance of the life size Ubu Roi.

WIGS 4/5

Valhalla by Paul Murphy at Theatre 503

This was our first time back at Theatre503 for almost two years, having been out of London for so long. The last thing we saw was Chris Urch’s ‘Land of Our Fathers’ a really good play on every level. ‘Valhalla’ represented a continuation of Theatre503′s interesting and quality work.

Valhalla was written and performed by Paul Murphy and was selected as a joint winner of the Theatre503 Playwriting Award. It focuses on the sexual politics of a couple who have moved to a remote nordic island after the spread of a devastating global disease. Our last theatre outing was Anthony Neilson’s ‘Stitching’, another play dealing with sexual politics, and although there were similarities, here the context was much more dramatic involving the spread of the disease, the rush to find a cure, the ethics involved in the testing, and the personal trauma faced by the woman during the outbreak.

Directed by Jo McInnes, who recently directed the successful ‘Vera Vera Vera’ at the Royal Court, she has created a tense atmosphere in which Paul Murphy’s text develops. Initially we are unclear about the chronology and circumstances of this couple. There seems to be trouble brewing under the surface for them. However, unlike Stu and Abby from Stitching, here they are struggling with external problems. Avoiding dialogue on central issues compounds the problems for this couple.

The small stage space created a claustrophobic atmosphere with an ice-coloured frame to the stage and matching door, in contrast to white elsewhere. The lockers and mirrors added a research facility feel to somewhere that was meant to be home, another demonstration of the way work had crept into this relationship. Katie Lias has done an excellent job here creating the physical world of the play.

Carolina Main and Paul Murphy play the man and women both showing a good range in their characters, dealing both with relationship issues and the problems of the world, and darker things linked to the supernatural and ethics of the man’s research. Our sympathies gradually favoured the woman and whether or not this was intended by Paul I don’t know. Indeed she talks of many of the problems of the world stemming from the activities of men.

Really good work as ever by Theatre503 and everyone involved in Valhalla, particularly Paul, for his exceptional dramatic debut. This really is one of the best small theatres in London consistently putting on interesting and impressive work. Valhalla closes at the end of this week so make sure you get down before then!

Dramatic Highlight of the play – undoubtedly the ending. The tension of the whole play built to three final scenes confronting us with some quite unexpected terror and overwhelming joy. A very dramatic juxtaposition of feelings for an audience to take in at the end of a play.

WIGS 4/5

Stitching by Anthony Neilson at the White Bear Theatre

Anthony Neilson’s shocking play is back. On its first run in 2002 people walked out! And you can understand why. Masturbation and Auschwitz, dildos and self inflicted sewing – may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This time it was performed at the charming White Bear Theatre in Kennington. We were new to this theatre but were won over by its intimate space, lovely bar and, of course, polar bear teddy!

An ill-starred couple fight, argue and struggle their way through the news of pregnancy and whether or not they should keep the baby. The action jumps back and forth between several situations in their troubled time together.

House of Wolf bring back this piece and it is just as shocking as it was when it first came out. Adam Howden and Sarah Harkins star as the warring couple. They showed great versatility in portraying the huge emotional range of their characters in an angry relationship, and then afterwards in a very different relationship. Intimately staged with a bed in the middle of the space, the actors flung themselves around it, verbalising and physicalising their problems whilst lights under the bed illuminated bags of children’s things. We do not understand the true context of the things until the end – a powerful symbol throughout.

Anthony Neilson has written some wonderful plays and this was no exception. Expertly cutting through this destructive relationship, he gives us a few details here and there, so that understanding what’s taken place is not given away too soon. The relationship was sick. It goes to show that fundamental problems can be irreconcilable. And having a baby is no solution. This play was sick, brilliantly sick. A very good production from House of Wolf. And a lovely little pub theatre!

Dramatic highlight of the play – Stu explaining the correct attire and attitude of a whore, to the attentive Abby.

WIGS 4/5

Firebird by Phil Davies at the Hampstead Theatre

Every now and then, we at the Ginger Wig like to walk into something completely blind, with no prior knowledge of content. Firebird, downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre, was one of these occasions. And boy, were we in for a shock!

Phil Davies’ debut full-length play was an absolute fireball to the system. We certainly weren’t expecting such a powerful, moving and downright harrowing play, but that is exactly what we got.

It is based on the appalling case of nine men who ran a child sexual exploitation ring in Rochdale. The story follows Tia who is wheelchair bound from a broken leg. We first meet her struggling to engage properly with another girl on a hill in Rochdale. We then encounter her in a kebab shop trying to get some free chips. Here she meets AJ, who at first, seems like your average chatty bloke in a chip shop. As they continue to talk he announces that he is a ‘youth worker’. It turns out that he is grooming her and through manipulation and alcohol, entraps her. The writing of this piece was terrific, not revealing too much too quickly and sculpting extremely believable characters, particularly the protagonist. Tia struggles with her lack of self worth because of her past. Both the circumstances in which she was born, fostered by a ‘fat bitch’ at age three, and then becoming exploited and struggling with a sort of Stockholm syndrome in relation to the man AJ, contribute to her wild character.

An absolutely phenomenal performance was delivered by Callie Cooke in her first professional stage appearance delivering a raw and charged example of the kind of girl that was targeted. She was supported by Phaldut Sharma, playing the charming then despicable AJ and then the police officer Simon. He could have been two different actors, the transformation between characters was that good. Tahirah Sharif, played Tia’s friend Katie, having an equivalent presence to Callie’s loose canon.

Staged simply with the audience on four sides, scenes were interspersed with loud dubstep, creating a mood of recklessness and abandon, mirroring Tia’s frequent recourse to booze to block her pain. Booze, cigarettes and gifts were often employed by the men as a way to lure girls into their trap.

Finally we should commend the actors for the way they responded to a wheelchair malfunction. Unable to reopen the wheelchair, the actors stayed in character trying to sort it out, when eventually a stage manager came on to help. The actors left the stage when a second stage manager came on to resolve the problem. She was helped by a member of the audience. At this point, some members of the audience broke into giggles. The actors, Callie and Tahirah, however, continued the piece, as if nothing had happened, showing a professionalism and experience that defied their ages.

Shocking and real, this piece presented one of the most disgusting tales of organised crime from the last decade. Powerful writing from debutant author Phil Davies and a star turn performance from Callie Cooke. Definitely look out for this lot! Go see the Firebird, it’ll make you squirm, but hey, that’s the best kind of theatre!

Dramatic highlight of the play – The slow but daunting realisation of the content of this piece, smashed home by the falling mattress and blood covered Tia.

WIGS 4/5

The White Feather by Ross Clark at the Union Theatre

It’s been a while since we walked out of a new musical singing, dancing and whistling the tunes, but that’s exactly what we did coming out of The White Feather. This brand new British musical by Ross Clark with Arion Productions left a mark on us like no other musical in recent memory. It brought together the historical and tragic story of World War I deserters, with excellent music and lyrics, fantastic singing and performances from the entire cast and evocative staging, sets and lighting.

The story starts just before the outbreak of war in a small community in Suffolk. The people sing whimsically of what it is to be a true Suffolk man, unaware of the horrors that are awaiting them in the looming conflict. After a military procession through the village some local boys sign up, including 16-year-old Harry Briggs, who keeps his age a secret. His sister objects, but is powerless to stop him. Once at the front line he encounters by chance his local landowner, Mr Davey, for whom he worked. He also has a few secrets. Harry falls victim to shell-shock in the trenches and is then court-martialled when he struggles to follow orders. His sister is then left with the task of trying to defend his name and have him pardoned.

There is much more to this story than I am putting down, as I do not want to  spoil it for those who will want to go, for I strongly urge all who read this to get tickets for this remarkable show. Deserters and conscientious objectors received public opprobrium and this play is a fascinating portrayal of the attitudes feeding it. The practice of giving men white feathers for cowardice, is absolutely abhorrent. The story of two men who were given white feathers while playing golf one weekend in Wimbledon comes to mind. Two women stormed onto the green to thrust white feathers into their hands, only to find out that these men were soldiers on leave from six months at the front, enjoying a game of golf and brief respite from the mustard gas, barbed wire and the enemy’s artillery. How insensitive and ignorant people were of others’ situations and the realities of the First World War.

The emotional range of the story was evident in the music, transporting us from the idyllic Suffolk countryside to the horrors of the front line. This was realised with some lovely voices and expert playing form the pianist, cellist and violinist. The songs were performed excellently by the wonderful cast of Christopher Blades, Katie Brennan, David Flynn, Zac Hamilton, Cameron Leigh, Abigail Matthews, Adam Pettigrew, Kathryn Rutherford and Lee Dillon Stuart, who brought an honesty and naturalism to the show. ‘No Man’s Land’ stood out strongly for its terrible and bleak subject matter. This powerful music and many of the other songs stayed with us long after the show.

A tremendous well done must be given to Ross Clark for his music and lyrics as well as to Andrew Keates for his direction and co-writing. We hope these two keep writing, directing and producing music theatre like this for many years to come. Although the whole team behind this show deserves a huge congratulations. It wowed us on every level, from the performance of the musicians to the design of the set. The abstract painted wall at the back of the theatre evoked both the trees and clouds of Suffolk and the smoke and explosions of war, whilst the high-tech lighting of The Union Theatre was extremely effective in adding to the shows impact.

Every element of this production was of the highest standard. See this with your friends, your family, your school, your partners, or just go if you want to see a brand new British musical that shows you exactly what music theatre is all about! On until 17th October at The Union Theatre in Southwark, get your tickets before they sell out!

Highlight of the show – a jolly pub scene interrupted by a soldier’s visit and his song about the horrors of war, immediately followed by a sudden transition to the front line to witness Harry’s reduced physical state.

WIGS 5/5