REVIEW: Doctor Faustus ★★★★ – Duke of York’s Theatre

“…violent, bloody, moving and disturbing – a must-see.”


West End Theatre Guide London

Artistic Director Jamie Lloyd’s interpretation of Christopher Marlowe’s 400 year old play is stunning, hard-hitting and innovative, and its troubling and all too familiar messages and images will continue to resonate long after seeing the production.

Marlow took his inspiration from the German legend of Faust, the story of a successful yet unhappy and discontented scholar who makes a deal with the Devil, selling his soul in return for knowledge and pleasure. The legend has inspired many other writers, including Goethe, whose Faust is more closely connected to the legend, with the main difference between the two being that Doctor Faustus actually suggests the wager. The Faustian pact is present in popular culture, in novels, films and television series, and, famously, the 1930s blues singer Robert Johnson, who was found dead aged 27, is alleged to have made a deal at a crossroads for his talent, and indeed there are references to this in his songs. The story takes many forms, both in fiction and in real life, but the question is always: how much would you give up to get what you want?

Marlowe’s play tells the story of Doctor John Faustus who makes a pact with the Devil, selling his soul in return for the power of black magic to make him into a world-renowned conjurer and friend to the rich and famous. Faustus rides high, enjoying his fame, wealth and adoration, and abusing his power by playing cruel practical jokes. He appears uncaring where his power comes from but he becomes all too aware when the pact matures and the Devil collects. Throughout the play, Faustus declines all of Heaven’s offers of redemption, however, by the end, he begs for this opportunity but it never comes. Faustus has human moments when he is around Wagner, who he is attracted to and seems to really care for, and it is only when he is with her that he turns away from the Devil and wishes to undo what he has agreed. However, chillingly, he turns even that to evil when he murders and rapes her and so completes his descent into hell.

Mephistopheles is Faustus’ ever-present “guiding light”, a demon who both encourages him to “sin big”, insisting this is the way to rise above the eternal mediocrity of the human race, but equally tries to warn him against his proposed pact with Lucifer, telling him that hell is indeed real and terrible, a fact which Faustus soon comes to realise, but all too late.

This production features Game of Thrones star Kit Harington in the title part. He gives a fantastic performance as the troubled and damned Doctor. Jenna Russell (Merrily We a Ride Along, Grey Gardens, Guys and Dolls) is outstanding as the wonderfully twisted and demented Mephistopheles. It is a gritty, unconventional version of the play, at times funny, then sad, and then terrifying, with many current political references, and we see a chilling echo in our own times, in our celebrity-obsessed, greed-ridden society, desiring fame and fortune and demanding instant gratification, but at what price? As Mephistopheles tells us: ”Where we are is hell, and where hell is must we ever be.”

Marlowe’s work is vividly brought to life under Jamie Lloyd’s skilful direction. It is violent, bloody, moving and disturbing – a must-see.

Doctor Faustus is showing at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 25th June. To read more about your visit to the Duke of York’s, read our guide.


REVIEW: The Musical Marathon ★★★★★ – King’s Cross Theatre

“…an amazing display of wonderful talent, raising money for a very worthy cause.”


West End Theatre Guide London

The Musical Marathon was organised by Paul Taylor-Mills and cast by Will Burton at the King’s Cross Theatre bringing together West End stars for a concert to raise funds for Orchid Cancer Appeal, a charity helping to fight male cancer.

Paul Taylor-Mills is an acclaimed producer who has recently won three Olivier awards and he will be producing the new season of shows at the St James Theatre, recently acquired by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Taylor-Mills presented the show, along with Ben Hewis, Deputy Editor of What’s On Stage, and Phil Cornwall was the musical director.

The evening was opened by Kim Criswell (Annie Get Your Gun, Into The Woods, Carrie) singing ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ from Funny Girl, and what an opening it was! Criswell demonstrated outstanding vocal ability, as perhaps would be expected from her esteemed theatre credits, but still awe-inspiring! She later performed a gorgeous duet with Evelyn Hoskins (Carrie, Sound of Music (TV), Casualty (TV)) from last year’s revival of Carrie the Musical, singing ‘Eve Was Weak’. Hoskins also performed the song ‘Carrie’ from this musical.

Liam Doyle (Wicked, Ghost, West Side Story) sang James Bay’s ‘Running’, delivering this beautiful love song very tenderly.

Jodie Steele (Dick Whittington and His Cat, Legally Blonde, Jesus Christ Superstar), currently starring in The War of the Worlds at the Dominion Theatre, performed ‘Runnin’ by Beyoncé and ‘Heart Shape Wreckage’ with Michael Vinsen (Book of Mormon, Legally Blonde, Grease), currently starring in Kinky Boots. Both sets were beautifully delivered and Steele has a sensational voice. Vinsen dueted with Ross William Wild (The Witches of Eastwick, We Will Rock You, Grease) singing ‘Bare’ from the musical in which they starred at the Greenwich and Union Theatres.

Nathan Amzi (Rock of Ages, Urinetown, In The Heights), soon to be starring in Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre, performed AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ which was interestingly accompanied by a piano, with no guitars in sight. Amzi has a spectacular rock voice and later sang the chorus of Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ Shirley Bassey style! Amzi also sang the Motown song ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ with In The Heights star Christine Allado, which again was a huge crowd-pleaser and really powerful performance.

Some of the cast of In the Heights, showing at the King’s Cross Theatre, joined the show. Gabriella Garcia (Hot Stuff, Sweet Charity, Ghost) and Sarah Naudi (In The Heights, Porn – the Musical) performed ‘Baby Dream Your Dream’ and Christine Allado (Beyond the Fence, Here Lies Love, From Here To Eternity), who recently joined the cast as Vanessa, and Michael Cortez (Ghost, Rent, Daddy Cool) sang the song ‘Champagne’ from In The Heights.

Zizi Strallen (Rock of Ages, Cats, Carman), currently on UK tour with Mary Poppins playing the title part, performed Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ showcasing her talents as an amazing vocalist and talented pianist.

Emma Kingston (In The Heights, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Grease), currently in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, sang ‘Listen’, the second Beyoncé song of the night, with incredible power and emotion. It is a very touching song and Kingston’s performance certainly delivered.

Jodie Jacobs (Rock of Ages, Carrie, Legally Blonde) closed the show with ‘My Way’. There were many, many amazing moments throughout the concert but this was the perfect closer to the evening from a spectacular singer with so much power and depth as well as a crazy sense of humour. It was a breath-taking performance and a very fitting end to a wonderful evening.

Overall, the concert was an amazing display of wonderful talent, raising money for a very worthy cause. Paul Taylor-Mills will very shortly be running the London Marathon and we wish him the very best of luck and thank him for organising such a fantastic evening!


REVIEW: The Taming of the Shrew ★★ – Above the Arts

“…this production has a niche appeal, it is not for all audiences.”


West End Theatre Guide London

The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies. It tells the story of Baptista Minola’s (a lord in Padua) bid to see both his daughters successfully married. However, the younger, widely desired daughter, Bianca, cannot marry until her shrew sister, Katherina, is wed.

Katherina has a reputation for her wicked, sharp tongue and untameable nature. Gremio states that “though her father be very rich, any man is so very a fool to be married to hell”. Her father jumps at Petruchio’s offer to marry his wild daughter. Petruchio takes on the task of “taming the shrew” into an obedient wife, but Katherina deceives him, letting him believe he has tamed her. She is determined not to fall in love with any man: “I see a woman may be made a fool, If she had not a spirit to resist.” However, she actually grows to love her domineering husband in spite of herself.

Bianca is used as a commodity by her father who seeks to marry her off to the most eligible, well-connected and wealthy suitor. This leads her to elope with Lucentio without either parents’ consent.

This production of Taming of the Shrew is not conventional or traditional Shakespeare. It is a gender swap adaptation of the play. It sees women in the powerful roles, owning vast areas of land and negotiating marriages, in a time when women actually weren’t allowed to own land in their own names or receive an inheritance and had little say in their lives, with marriages being arranged for them. One has to admire the immense creativity of the production. There have been many, many classic adaptations of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and this version of Taming of the Shrew is a fresh adaptation.

The casting for the production was excellent, bringing together an extremely talented group of actors. Martina Laird (Casualty (TV), Holby City (TV), The Bill (TV)) in particular gives a standout performance as Petruchio. Eugenia Caruso (Luna Park, Mission Impossible, Romeo and Juliet) is also phenomenal as Hortensio, one of Bianca’s suitors.

Overall, this production has a niche appeal, it is not for all audiences. It is a true Shakespeare fan’s heaven. People who are less familiar with this play may not enjoy or get as much from the performance because the humour created by the gender swap may be lost and makes the play harder to follow. The Taming of the Shrew is showing at Above the Arts until 1st May.


REVIEW: Kinky Boots ★★★★★ – Adelphi Theatre

“…a sensational, feel-good show, full of flamboyant sex appeal, wonderful music, slick dance routines”


West End Theatre Guide London



Kinky Boots is an award-winning musical by Harvey Fiernstein, with music by Cyndi Lauper. It is based on Geoff Deane and Tim Firth’s 2005 film. Following success on Broadway, the show opened in the West End’s Adelphi Theatre in September 2015 under the direction of Jerry Mitchell.

The show is primarily set in a shoe factory in Northampton. This city has been and continues to be a prime location for the shoemaking industry, dating back to the time of the English Civil War. Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price and his bid to save his late father’s failing shoe factory. Charlie forms a partnership with drag queen Lola, and the factory discontinues the production of comfortable, expensive men’s shoes and begins to make a range of glamorous, glittering, stiletto-heeled, kinky boots targeted at the male transvestite market in time for modelling at a Milan fashion show.  Charlie Price is played by Killian Donnelly (Memphis, The Commitments, The Phantom of the Opera). Price reluctantly takes over his father’s business, leaving behind his life in London with his fiancée, Nicola (played by Amy Ross (Sunny Afternoon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Legally Blonde)), who soon leaves him when he becomes absorbed by his work. Donnelly is fantastic in the role and delivers ‘Soul of a Man’ passionately.

Matt Henry (Avenue Q, Saturday Night Fever, Hair) played Lola. Lola is a drag queen who performs in clubs and comes up with the design for the boots. He stresses the boots need to be “two and a half feet of irresistible tubular sex” rather than comfortable, singing ‘Sex Is In The Heel’. The character is endearing because Lola stays true to himself despite continued taunts and homophobic remarks. Henry steals the show, performing the part with transfixing, magnetic confidence and style.

Lauren starts out the show working on the production line in the factory, but moves into an executive role and is also a love interest to Charlie. Amy Lennox (The Last Five Years, Tracks, Legally Blonde) is phenomenal in the role, demonstrating incredible vocal ability with ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ and ‘Hold Me In Your Heart’.

Don, played by Jamie Baughan (Chicago, Dick Whittington, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf), is a factory worker with homophobic tendencies who is bewildered by the unconventional Lola. His comments are often hurtful but he sees the error of his ways in the end and rises to Lola’s challenge to “accept people for who they are”.

The show has some really strong and memorable musical highlights. ‘I’m Not My Father’s Son’ is a tender and very touching moment in the show when Charlie and Lola share their experiences of having disappointed their fathers, who had wanted them to take over the family business and become a boxer respectively. ‘Everybody Say Yeah’ closes Act 1 and is the celebration of the first pair of kinky boots to come off the production line. The number is marvellously set (the work of David Rockwell), making clever use of conveyor belts. ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ closes the show, starting with an out-of-place Charlie clumsily making his way down the Milan fashion show runway in high-heeled boots, but Lola and his ensemble (The Angels), and the factory workers, strut down the runaway showing the boots off with style.

Kinky Boots is a sensational, feel-good show, full of flamboyant sex appeal, wonderful music, slick dance routines and an amazingly talented cast.

Kinky Boots is showing at the Adelphi Theatre and it is currently booking until 30th September 2017 (to book tickets, click here).  For more information on your visit to the Adelphi, read our guide.