Wednesday, 18 December 2013

One Snowy Night

A WINTER treat for young children is now on at the Albany Theatre.
One Snowy Night is a heart-warming story, based on the bestselling Percy the Park Keeper books by Nick Butterworth.
It has been adapted by renowned theatre company Slot Machine and is full of songs to sing along to, furry puppet friends to meet and blankets to be tucked up in.
For those not in the know, Percy the park keeper always feeds the animals in the park where he lives.
But one cold winter’s night, Percy finds his little friends shivering on the doorstep looking for somewhere warm to sleep.
Squirrel, Fox, Badger, Hedgehog and friends warm their collective paws (and claws) in Percy’s home until they too are disturbed by a little something burrowing into the hut from below!
The show is brought to life by a cast of three including puppeteer and Balham resident Amy Tweed.
"It's a lovely story and is a joy to be working on," says Amy. "It's about Percy who looks after a park and one night there is a really heavy snowfall and one by one all the animals come to his front door looking for shelter.
"It's quite simple but it's also very funny. There are great songs and all the animals have their own characters so it's a really fun show to do - my favourite is the fox but I also really like the four tiny mice.
"Between myself and the other puppeteer we operate 48 different animals so it's going to be quite something and we have got our work cut out!"
Amy and the rest of the cast and crew are currently in rehearsals for the show which starts at the Douglas Way theatre on Tuesday (dec 10).
"I am an actor really but I have done a few productions involving puppetry and it's the third time I've done this show so I know it well.
"What's really good about this one is that most shows at this time of year really focus in on Christmas but this is just a nice winter story. Kids are so fond of the books that it's fantastic to be part of something that brings the characters they love to life in such a visual way.
"And it's great especially for those for whom it's the first time in a theatre. It's very special and amazing to see their faces as they watch it."

One Snowy Night is on at the Albany from Tuesday, December 10 until Saturday, Decembver 29

Tickets cost £9.50. Call the box office on 020 8692 4446 or visit or for dates and times.

Cinderella - The Unicorn


CINDERELLA is one of the great fairy stories most kids know - a girl who is mistreated by her wicked step-mother but who eventually wins the hand of the handsome Prince Charming.
And a fantastic, modern re-imagining of the story by theatre company Travelling Light, is brought beautifully to life at the Unicorn Theatre.
When Ella's mother dies, she is brought up by her devoted and loving father who not only teaches her to dance but he also teaches her the names and calls of the woodland birds that surround her home.
Together they spend happy hours together in the forest. But before long her father re-marries and Ella's peaceful life is turned upside down by some new and unpleasant relations - namely her step-mother and her twin children.
Tragedy strikes soon after the wedding with the untimely and perhaps suspicious death of her father and things are never the same again for Ella.
Her step-mother forces her away from her beloved feathered friends and the woods and forces her to clean all day and sleep by the fire at night.
But one day Ella escapes back to the forest and meets a fellow bird enthusiast trying to find some ellusive birds.
They become friends, but all is not as it seems.
It is an utterly delightful show with a great script and a far cry from the schmalzy saccharine Disney version - and all the better for it. In fact in places it's quite dark too - think hacked off toes!
But with a stellar cast of five including Sarah Kameela Impey as Cinderella and Mark Kane as the unconventional Prince, beautiful music and puppetry all tied together in a quirky, funny and cleverly written story, this is a total joy.

Cinderella is on at the Unicorn Theatre, Tooley Street until January 5.
Tickets cost from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7645 0560

Peter Pan - review


PETER Pan is not a story that is easily translated into a panto - for a start there is no Dame in the original story - but the creative team behind Croydon's Fairfield Halls has largely succeeded.
Starring EastEnders' hard man Phil Mitchell, aka Steve McFadden as Captain Hook and Croydon regular Quinn Patrick as Mrs Smee, the Dame, it is an exuberant and entertaining show with all of the obligatory Christmas cracker type jokes, slapstick, local and topical references, note-perfect songs, energetic dancing and versatile set.
Thanks to amazing visual special effects, zip wires and a bit of magic we are transported first to the London home of the Darlings where we meet the children - Wendy, Michael and John - and their nanny, Mrs Smee who tells them a story about Peter Pan, the boy who doesn't want to grow up.
As they go to sleep we see Peter's shaddow flit about the stage before he flies in through the window to find it.
When the three Darling children wake up and see him - or is this all a dream, we are not quite sure - they immediately become friends and travel with him to Neverland where they meet pirates, Indians, a life size and very realistic looking croc, mermaids and of course the Lost Boys.
They then embark on an adventure to rid Neverland of the evil Captain Hook before Wendy and her brothers have to go home.
David Ribi is suitably boyish as Peter Pan and is more than at home flying above the stage on wires and Elizabeth Carter makes a delightful Wendy.
There is a great supporting cast to help the show along many of which take on multiple roles. Kelly Chinery and Nathaniel Morrison are hilarious as both the mermaids and the Indians.
But it is the double act that is Steve McFadden and Quinn Patrick which is the star of this particular show.
Their scenes with each other were hilarious and in one scene disaster nearly struck when Mrs Smee nearly came out of her boat and into the orchestra pit. And Steve McFadden proves he can do more than be a gruff mechanic as he brings a tender side to his role as Hook.

Peter Pan is on at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon until Sunday, January 5, 2014.

Tickets from £17. Visit or call 020 8688 9291.

Jack and the Beanstalk - Southwark Playhouse

A PANTO with a twist is how acclaimed playwright and director Toby Hulse describes his latest Christmas extravaganza.The show, Jack and the Beanstalk, which is staged by theatre company Goat and Monkey and penned by Toby, has just opened at the Southwark Playhouse. But if you think it's traditional panto fare, he advises you to think again.
"It's got everything you would expect of course when it comes to a traditional pantomime with giants, a beanstalk and all the usual songs and silliness," he chuckles. "But it's got an extra layer and there are a few twists, thrills and spills I guarantee you won't expect."
Some of these are closely guarded secrets - he doesn't want to spoil anything but think Mexican dancing beans, milk squirting cows and a play within a play.
"It is a family show, a lot of fun and the audience is very much part of the action and help create the show," he says. "So we expect everyone to be up for a good time and get involved."
What he will say is the premis is that of a group of actors who are trying to get a panto together but they are late doing so.
An inspector, hidden within the audience, is due to visit and so the group is in the process of trying to tidy up and put on the show - and they get the audience to help them.
"We as a society are constantly being inspected and assessed so it's a theme which is current and topical," says Toby.
"I also enjoy the show within a show idea as it allows the actors to comment on what's going on. It allows for lots of extra jokes and explains the plot in many different ways."
Toby is no stranger to writing festive shows, having penned the acclaimed production of Wind In The Willows at Wimbledon's Polka Theatre last year.
However, he says this year's has been particularly exciting as the Southwark Playhouse has moved to its new bigger home in Newington Causeway from under the London Bridge railway arches.
"It's a much easier space to work in and has a good sized auditorium," he says.
"When I sat down with the producers and talked about how we could involve the audience we looked at the geography of the building and discovered secret routes in to the auditorium which was fantastic. So it's been a particular joy to do."
But while he is no Christmas show novice he admits the pressure is always on to deliver the goods.
"I think there is always pressure particularly at Christmas, to put something on stage that you can't get anywhere else. We can't get this sort of entertainment from watching a DVD or watching TV.
"This is something a family can do all together - and it doesn't exist without the audience shouting back!
"This one begins the moment you enter the theatre and you are very much part of the show. It continues through the interval and afterwards - it's a proper evening out.
"It is also a real privilege to write a show like this because you are aware it could be a child's first experience of theatre.
"We all tell each other stories by reading books or talking about what we did during the day or at school. Telling stories is how we keep communities together and so it's a privilege to share a story like this. It's a very special thing."

Jack and the Beanstalk is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until January 11. tickets from £16. Call the box office on 020 7407 0234  

The Elephantom - review


IMAGINE having an elephant in your house. And one which is particularly wild and cheeky. Well that is the situation in which one little girl finds herself in a production of The Elephantom at the National Theatre's Shed stage.
The show is an adaptation by Ben Power of Ross Collins' acclaimed book of the same name.
It features a cast of nine including the amazing puppeteers who manipulate the Elephantom.
At first we see the Girl, played by Audrey Brisson and her Mum and Dad going through the motions of their everyday lives. It is all ordered and structured and their movements are beautifully choreographed.
But the Girl is clearly lonely as her self absorbed parents spend most of their time engrossed in each other and pay little or no attention to their daughter.
But one night she has a dream and a blue elephant comes to visit. At first she is a bit scared of him but then she realises he has a sense of humour and she comes to enjoy having him around - not least because he is the only creature who gives her any attention.
But then he starts being mischievous and brings his friends round for a party and things start to get out of hand.
Full of wit, beautifully acted and choreographed, with lots of clever detailing and hugely inventive, this is a show for all ages.
And the sight of elephants disco dancing, jiving and congo-ing about the small stage will stay with me forever.
This is definitely one Elephantom in the room who will get noticed. Just brilliant.

The Elephantom is on at The Shed until January 11. Tickets cost £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3244  

Interview with Tom Crook - Gruffalo man!

THERE can't be many parents of pre-schoolers who are not familiar with The Gruffalo.
Written by award-winning author Julia Donaldson in 1999, and with the now familiar illustrations of Axel Scheffler, the delightful tale of the brave and wily mouse who meets the unassuming monster in the deep dark wood has sold millions of copies around the world, spawned the sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, and was even adapted into a film shown on the BBC in 2009.
For those who may not have come across it, it is the story of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods one day and comes across three of his natural predators.
By sheer cunning he manages one by one to convince them not to eat him and instead to worry about the Gruffalo, a creature with, amongst other things, terrible teeth in his terrible jaws, prickles all over his back and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose, and who is partial to roasted fox, owl ice cream and scrambled snake.
It is currently the subject of a stage play, now on at the Lyric Theatre in the West End and starring Streatham-based actor Tom Crook in the title roll.
For the 31-year-old it is a dream job, despite the costume which he admits is not designed for non air-conditioned theatres.
"It's an amazing show. The reaction we've had so far has been fantastic and I'm having such a blast doing it but the costume makes me get very hot and sweaty," he laughs cheerfully. "It's like a boiler suit of fur."
He has joined the show after a successful UK tour in The Gruffalo's Child.
"Julia Donaldson's stories are beautifully written and are now considered modern classics," he says.
"I leapt at the chance to be in both shows because the characters are so well known and described so well in the books and kids love them.
"We get lots of audience participation as you can imagine which is fantastic. Kids are the best audience," he adds.
"They don't sit politely, they are with us the whole way through the show, laughing, singing, shouting, up on their feet, pointing and just having the best time - which is just as it should be. It's brilliant."
The show is about an hour long and has enabled the creative team to "flesh out" the story and its characters as well as introduce some music and songs.
"There are only about 80 lines in the book so it's given us a chance to think about what the animals would look, talk and act like if they were human which has been fun," says Tom.
"The snake is slinky, a good mover and quite vain! The Owl is quite stuffy and rigid so we've created him as a world war fighter pilot and the fox is a country squire.
"It's really brought them to life and the audience gets to see them for a bit longer than they appear in the book.
"The kids love it though - but woe betide any of us who says the wrong word or in the wrong order," he chuckles. "They know the story so well they can recite it perfectly and are not afraid to tell us if we've got it wrong. It's fantastic.
"But it just shows the brilliance of the book - the fact that children have taken to it in the way they have."
The show runs until mid January before it goes on another tour so Tom will be wearing his costume a while yet.
"We are taking it to Hong Kong and Singapore for a children's festival there which will be fun though it will mean wearing the fur a bit longer.
"It makes you realise how many theatres aren't air conditioned and just concrete boxes with lights."
And then it will be back home to Streatham where he's lived for the past three years.
"It's the longest time I've lived anywhere in London and I love it," he enthuses. "People give it a bad press but I think it's very unfair.
"It's got great transport links - fantastic for getting to the West End when I'm working there - and loads of great shops and cafés.
"It has a real proper community feel to it and is really vibrant - what's not to love!"

The Gruffalo is on at the Lyric until Sunday, January 12. Tickets cost from £14. Call the box office on 0844 482 9674  

Emil and the Detectives

Stuart McQuarrie as Mr Snow (credit Marc Brenner)


THE annual Christmas show at the National Theatre is always hotly anticipated and this year's gem is a production of Erich Kästner’s 1920s book Emil and the Detectives.
It stars a gaggle of about 50 kids who dominate the stage whenever they are on it. Indeed they seem to relegate the adult actors to mere supporting cast members for much of the time.
In short they are a joy to watch.
The story of a young boy's adventure in the big city is a good one too and will appeal to most kids. Young Emil is despatched from his small home town of Neustadt to Berlin by his mother. He takes with him 140 marks which he is instructed to give to his Grandmother when she meets him at the station.
However, on the train to Berlin he meets the shady and franky creepy bowler-hatted Mr Snow, brilliantly played by Stuart McQuarrie.
Mr Snow deftly steals the money and leaves poor Emil alone and frightened - not least about what his mother will say about the matter.
But Emil is made of stern stuff and not one to be downcast for long, he enlists the help of Berlin's children to find Mr Snow and get his money back.
There then follows a brilliantly choreographed race through the streets of Berlin to find the thief and a chance for the youngsters to show the audience what they are made of.
The parts played by the children are rotated between three different sets of youngsters and the night I saw it Ethan Hammer played Emil, giving an assured performance.
He was ably assisted by Georgie Farmer as Toots, Izzy Lee as his tom-boyish bike-riding cousin, Pony the Hat and Keeyan Hameed who won the audience's hearts with his portrayal of the put upon but persistent Tuesday, who is continually assigned to man the phones rather than get stuck into the action.
The whole production was great and Bunny Christie's amazing set should get a special mention as it was stunning.
But the stars are of course the children and seeing them rush pell mell through the stalls' seats in pursuit of the dastardly Mr Snow and the stolen cash was fabulous.

Emil and the Detectives is on until Tuesday, March 18 at the Olivier Theatre. Tickets from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Panto - Puss In Boots - Greenwich Theatre


IT'S panto season again and Greenwich Theatre's offering of Puss in Boots is an absolute belter.
Written by, directed by and starring Andrew Pollard, it is panto at its best. In fact, after nearly 10 years of writing the Crooms Hill theatre's annual Christmas show, it is Andrew's best yet and boy what a show.
From the moments the lights go down and the music starts, the gag-ometer is practically off the scale with all the magic, mayhem, silliness and outrageous costumes seasoned panto goers have come to expect with more than a few hilarious ad libs along the way.
This year it has a distinct French feel. Set in Paris it tells the tale of how Puss, played by Alim Jayda and owner Sam (Luke Striffler) find themselves penniless and alone after Sam's father dies.
But all is not well. A band of goblins, led by the evit Count Da Cash, is stealing everything from King Croissant's coffers and they won't stop til they get his daughter, the hilariously named Princess Petit Filou.
It's up to Sam and Puss aided and abetted by the King, Petit and Fruity Fifi to save the day before Puss runs out of his nine lives.
As befits any decent panto there are lots of interactions with the audience as well as amazing sets, fantastic, catchy music, puppetry and a brilliant cast.
Greenwich regular Paul Critoph is back, this time as the King and Andrew Pollard is brilliant as Fifi - her swim in the river is a sight to behold!
Pollard has once again set the bar by which other pantos are judged - and this one is about as high as you can get.
So if you only see one panto this Christmas, make it Greenwich's Puss in Boots - it will have you laughing out loud well into the New Year.

Puss In Boots is on at Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill until Sunday, January 5.
Tickets from £21, children's tickets half price. Call the box office on 020 8858 7755

Rainer Hersch at the Southbank Centre

THINK you know all those Christmas songs? Well listen to Rainer Hersch's interpretations and you may want to think again.
The comedian, writer, performer and classical musician will be bringing his own unique take on a selection of Yuletide tunes from yesteryear which have graced the charts at a special concert at the Southbank Centre next week.
From The Beatles to Mr Blobby, Harry Belafonte to the Human League and Benny Hill to the Military Wives, Christmas No.1 SINGALONG! will be a veritable jamboree of classic UK singles chart Christmas number ones.
"I have done a lot of shows at the Southbank Centre over the years. It's a lovely venue and the perfect place to do a mix of comedy and music which is what this is," he explains.
"Originally I was going to do Christmas songs from the 70s and 80s but then I thought number ones would be more interesting and fun to do so I'm looking forward to it."
But don't expect any of the original versions.
"My background is in classical music and a lot of the songs are quite classical in the way they are constructed. However, I will be doing my own special rendition of them, mashing them up a bit," he laughs.
"It's basically a sing-along, stand-up comedy trip down memory lane all rolled into one and the audience are very much part of the show."
Rainer's dual love of comedy and classical music began when he was at school.
"My first love was music and I got a real buzz out of it," he says. "My act of rebellion as a teenager was classical music. I got obsessively interested in piano and went to lots of concerts - many of which were at the Southbank Centre.
"I did a degree in economics but carried on playing music and started writing comedy shows. Eventually one fine day I realised I could earn a living out of doing both and I've not looked back."
Indeed he now performs shows all over the world as both a stand-up, soloist and with full size orchestras as well as his own eight-piece band.
And it will be this band who will be joining him on stage next week along with actress and singer Charlotte Page.
"Charlotte Page will help me do 15 numbers," he says. "Eight of them are cast iron classics and include Bohemian Rhapsody, and Ernie (the fastest milkman in the West) - they absolutely require audience participation!"
They will also be grouped in to categories including Classic, Novelty and Christian Songs.
"True classics are like those done by Slade," he says. "Those are my favourites because they are about having a good time over Christmas and put you in a party spirit. Not like Mr Blobby and the Band Aid single which are really cringy.
"Slade's Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is definitely my favourite but imagine if it was Christmas every day – everything would be closed and we would be eating Turkey every day! It's nonsense!
"So, I will be doing a bit of song deconstruction as well. It'll be a bit like a Christmas cracker - full of surprises and hopefully go with a bang!"

Christmas No.1 SINGALONG! With Rainer Hersch and his orchestra is on at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre on Saturday December 14. Tickets cost £20. Call the box office on 0844 847 9910.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Glenn Tilbrook

MENTION the name Glenn Tilbrook and most people will immediately think of the pop band Squeeze.
The Woolwich-born singer songwriter rose to fame with the group which was formed in Deptford in 1974.
Together, Glenn and friend and fellow Squeeze member Chris Difford were responsible for penning some of the catchiest songs to grace the charts - including the likes of Tempted, Cool For Cats and Up The Junction.
But after an astonishing 13 albums the group went their separate ways in 1999 after 25 years together.
It gave Glenn the breathing space to throw himself into a solo career which saw him release two albums, one of which featured actor Johnny Depp on guest vocals, and form another band, The Fluffers.
But there was clearly unfinished business when it came to Squeeze and in 2007 the band reformed releasing a greatest hits album and going on tour.
Since then Glenn, who still remains true to his South London roots, has continued to work on a variety of solo and other musical projects.
He's just back from a two-month tour of America, has a new album to promote and is catching his breath before he sets out on a string of dates across the UK - including at Blackheath Halls on Saturday, December 14.
"Life is good," he says. "In fact it's pretty amazing. I've just got back from America where I went all over the place. At one point our driver said we'd done about 13,800 miles in six weeks. Unbelieveable!
"Now I'm doing a two month tour of the UK which I'm really excited about."
It's an eye-watering schedule but for a pro like Glenn it's par for the course and as we chat it's clear he has lost none of the passion and enthusiasm for the job which he says is the best in the world.
"It's great fun being on the road and exploring," he enthuses. "There really is nothing like it and I'm very lucky because people still want to come and listen but it can be exhausting," he admits laughing.
However, his latest outing is with neither Squeeze nor The Fluffers or indeed as a duo with Chris. Instead it is a totally stripped back solo affair.
"Touring on my own is quite liberating," he says. "I love being in the band but it's nice to do things on my own from time to time and I realised I hadn't done that in the UK for about six years so thought it was about time I did!
"The great thing about being by myself is it can get a lot more experimental.
"I work without a set list so I'm never completely sure about what I'm going to play until I'm on stage which makes it fun.
"The audience will have to come prepared to listen to a bit of everything - whether it's Squeeze the Fluffers or my solo work."
That's quite a lot to pack in then?
"It's not a bad back catalogue," he admits chuckling. "It's an amazing legacy and I'm immensely proud of my career and all the stuff I've done, particularly with Chris - we've had our ups and downs but we have written some great songs over the years and always end up coming back to each other. We are a good team."
And without wishing to be described as a workaholic, Glenn admits he can't sit still.
"I've got lots of projects on the go," he laughs warmly hinting at a collaboration with Chris on a new record early next year.
And there is another exciting project in the pipeline with Squeeze.
"We are working on some songs to go with Danny Baker's autobiography which is being made into a TV series," he says. "We have known him forever and it's a great project for a band like us to be involved in so that's been terrific."
But in the meantime Glenn is focusing on the gigs and his new album - Happy Ending - due out in January.
"The album has been influenced by, and is a comment on what's going on at the moment - things like Leveson Inquiry and the economy. It will be released as a vinyl, CD and download package which is exciting.
"And it will be good to be back in Blackheath. I still live up the road in Charlton and am very much a South London boy so it's always special to play on my home patch."

Glenn Tilbrook is at Blackheath Halls on Saturday, December 14. Tickets cost £18 in advance or £20 on the door. Call the box office on 020 8305 9300 or 020 8463 0100 or visit

Blues Band

FOR Gary Fletcher, the old adage of being in the right place at the right time couldn't be more true.
The Streatham-born base player with the Blues Band was working as a cabbie in between gigs with other groups when drummer Wilgar Campbell got in his taxi.
"We got chatting and before you know it I met (Blues Band member) Dave Kelly who was forming a band with Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness from Manfred Mann and they eventually asked me to join," says Gary.
"It was pretty amazing really!"
That was 1979 and over the decades that have passed the group has stuck together touring across the globe and recording about 20 albums culminating in their current release Few Short Lines.
They are currently on a UK tour which sees a pit stop at Blackheath Halls on Saturday. (dec 8).
And for Gary it will be a welcome return home.
"We play here quite often," he says warmly. "It's a lovely venue. I visit quite regularly as I still have friends in Streatham where I grew up and whenever I'm here I always arrive a bit early so I can go for a bite to eat at one of the great restaurants before a walk over the heath."
And he adds the band is looking forward to the gig not least because Jona Lewie will be joining them on stage.
"We are very excited about it actually," he says warmly. "I have no idea what we'll be playing - with us there's no set list so sometimes we can end up playing stuff we haven't done for years so we just jam along. We usually get away with it though," he laughs.
"What's amazing is we never thought for one minute when we started that we would still be here all these years later but we are very grateful that we are.
"We've never been in the rock star category but do it because we love gigging and making good albums - we've never shifted albums for our pension funds!" he chuckles..
"And I think we've lasted because we only do about 65 dates a year, we have other interests outside the band and we never travel together so we aren't in each others pockets all the time. It works and we are still good mates which is great!"

The Blues Band is at Blackheath Halls on Saturday, December 7. Tickets cost £22. Call the box office on 020 8305 9300 or 020 8463 0100 or visit

Scottsboro Boys - review


IN 1931 nine black teenagers boarded a train in Scottsboro, Alabama, in search of a new life. By the end of their journey, their lives – and those of every American – would be changed forever.
The boys were falsely accused of raping two white girls and were arrested, tried and found guilty. In fact over the years, they were tried numerous times and each time the guilty verdict was returned - despite one of the girls retracting her statement and admitting she lied.
Their story, which deeply divided America, had a powerful effect on American history and the American Civil Rights Movement and is now widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice.
And although this is a distressing and disturbing story that does nothing for the reputation of the American South, it provided the inspiration for Scottsboro Boys, a musical by award-winning composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb in 2010.
A production is now on at the Young Vic and a more powerful, uplifting and emotionally charged show you would be hard pushed to find.
Featuring five of the original Broadway cast, the acting, singing and dancing is terrific - in particular that of Kyle Scatliffe as Haywood Patterson, the most outspoken of the teenagers.
And although there is a slight unease at tapping ones foot along to songs about being electrocuted in the electric chair and lynchings the show is uplifting in its message about humanity and hope.
The direction is strong, the musical numbers tug at the heartstrings and the partnership of Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon as Mr Bones and Mr Tambo and a host of other characters is an inspiration.
And despite it being a bladder busting 105 minutes without an interval this is a quite simply an extraordinary show that should not be missed.

The Scottsboro Boys is on at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo until December 21.

Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Jo Brand

SHE has been a psychiatric nurse, is a BAFTA-winning stand up comedienne, actress, writer and broadcaster and been manhandled by self-styled makeover experts Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine in the name of fashion, but now Jo Brand is facing the biggest challenge of her life - panto.
The show in question is Aladdin which opens at the New Wimbledon Theatre on Friday, December 6 and in which she stars as the Genie of the Ring.
"I fancied a bit of a change to be honest," she laughs when I ask her what prompted her to take on the part.
"I realised I'd never done pantomime before so when it was offered, I thought why not?!"
I meet Jo in the basement of a rather dimly lit bar in Wimbledon on a very drizzly, cold day before rehearsals start.
And despite her sometimes sarcastic and droll demeanour on TV, she is incredibly relaxed and full of bonhomie as we chat about her forthcoming stint on stage and her lengthy and impressive career.
"Obviously I would have loved to be Cinderella because I'm a role model for glamorous women but they asked me to be the Genie of the Ring, God help me, so it will be quite amusing I'm sure," she chuckles.
"I’m no actress – I’d never describe myself as that but I wanted to have a go... tick it off the list so to speak.
"Also it's near where I live so I can get back home really easily which is a major consideration these days!" she laughs.
Joining her on stage will be award-winning actor Matthew Kelly as Widow Twankey and street dancers Flawless as the Peking Police Force.
"Fortunately I'm not going to be doing any prancing about myself - I shall probably be exhausted enough just watching them," Jo adds grinning widely.
As well as starring in the show, Jo will also have a hand in writing it.
"It will be another first for me in that I've never written panto before but I'm looking forward to it. The script hasn't been finalised yet though I'm sure there will be plenty of ad libs and gags.
"The worst bit will be putting on all the make up and wearing all the fancy glittery clothes - which is clearly not what I'm used to," she says gesturing to the outfit she is wearing - casual trousers, a baggy top and boots.
"Mind, you at least it can't be any worse than being dressed by Trinny and Susannah," she laughs.
"That was a very strange experience. I think whoever dreamed up the show thought I needed a makeover. It made good TV I suppose but they were hilarious and it was a bit of a laugh. I just looked totally different.
"I don’t wear black all the time these days so I suppose that's a partial victory for them. But I still wear the boots,” she adds flashing them in my direction.
Her appearance caused some to question whether her aggressive, men-hating comic routines and all-black wearing days were behind her.
"People always seem to think you mellow as you get older but I don’t think so," she says.
“What was hilarious was that when I was doing the stand up back in the early days, people thought I hated men which was ridiculous as I didn’t at all. They also thought I was a lesbian, again not at all."
In fact she is married with two daughters and lives not far from where she was born in Wandsworth, an area she loves.
"I love South London. It's very gritty and there are some parts of it which have seen better days but it has a good feel about it.
"Years ago it always had a reputation for being quite crime ridden and I remember South London Press was always full of crime and murder stories and the like.
"Now I think it's a bit calmer and there is more of a sense of community with people looking out for each other which is great.
"It did give me material for stand up.
"When I started out there were very few women on the circuit - it was just people like me and Jenny Eclair - and it was tough. There still aren’t a huge amount – but there are some very talented women out there so it's getting better.
"There was always a lot of heckling and you had to be tough so I just used to ignore it, give a put down or heckle back. You have to give as good as you get."
But she says it was a walk in the park compared to her previous job as a psychiatric nurse which she did for 10 years including stints at the Maudsley in Denmark Hill and South London Bethlem.
"Working as a psychiatric nurse it does make you think – it’s a really tough profession to be in and you are surrounded by some incredibly vulnerable human beings.
"The Maudsley is incredible in the work it does and I'm very proud of having been part of that. It hardens you completely though so after about 10 years I realised I'd had enough and needed to do something a little more light hearted."
However, the experience did leave her with a deep love of and for the NHS - which she showed when she penned and starred in the BBC Four award-winning comedy series Getting On which was set in a geriatric ward.
And she is now furious at the way she sees it being dismantled by the current Government.
So has she ever thought about going into politics herself?
“Oh goodness no,” she laughs. “I’d never be any good at that - I'm much too gobby!”

Aladdin is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre from Friday, December 6 until Sunday, January 12, 2014.

Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 0844 871 7646.

Our Ajax

Three stars

A POWERFUL retelling of Sophocles's Ajax is now on at the Southwark Playhouse. Written by Timberlake Wertenbaker it is an epic drama of heroism, love and homeland set among a British regiment on the front line.
A bare set of sand underfoot and a curtain at the back to signify a tent is all that is needed in this incredibly moving production.
Ajax, played by a towering Joe Dixon, is going slowly mad thanks to the horrors of war. Once a revered colonel, he is now suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and mad rages.
He staggers on to the sand strewn stage covered in blood and sweat dragging a bloodied and mutilated corpse of a goat which he thinks is Odysseus thanks to the goddess Athena having messed with his brain.
Prone to violent outbursts peppered with moments of sorrow and compassion, Ajax's family and regiment are confused at the change in this once powerful, charismatic and enigmatic leader, father and husband and don't know how to handle him but try to do so with love and understanding.
At its heart the play explores and shows us what war can do to human beings - not just physically but perhaps more importantly, mentally.
There are some great performances including from Frances Ashman as Ajax's wife Tecmessa but it is the fabulous and moving portrayal by Dixon as Ajax which really lights up the stage.

Our Ajax is on at the Southwark Playhouse in Newington Causeway until November 30.

Tickets cost £16. Call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

Interview with Arthur Smith

SOUTH London comic Arthur Smith is bringing an air of mystery and amusement to Balham next month with his unique form of mobile comedy.
The self-elected Night Mayor of Balham will be hosting a secret night walk around his beloved South London neighbourhood.
The event, on Saturday, December 14, will include singing, chat and audience participation. But the rest - well all will be revealed on the night.
What started out as a spontaneous idea in Edinburgh many years ago to fill in time between gigs has become something of a regular occurrence. And they were soon the stuff of legend as Arthur explains.
"When I was doing the Edinburgh Festival in the 1980s I was doing a comedy show at night and was trying to find a way of keeping sober during the day and hit on the idea of a walking tour.
"It was a bit of a parody of a tour and history of the place that gets mangled up - it was all bullshit really as I made up most of it but they were a lot of fun."
The tours were so successful he began to do them during the evenings as well.
"Sometimes they didn't start until about 2am, after a gig, when everyone was pissed and I used to get about 200 people which obviously had the potential for a riot.
"It meant they frequently ended in chaos, had elements of nudity and I got arrested at least once," he chuckles.
"For example I used to pay people to climb up lamp posts and sing Scotland The Brave and I ended up in A&E one time.
"The night I got arrested for breach of the peace it involved (comedian) Malcolm Hardee who stripped off and did an impression of General De Gaulle.
"I was fined £100 but have never been asked for the money so technically I am still a wanted man," he laughs.
"There was one occasion when we had about 50 coppers descend on us and we all had to scatter in the wind - it was pandemonium!"
These days although the walks may be less raucous they are nonetheless a chance to see Arthur at his comedic best.
"I was born in Bermondsey and have lived in South London all my life. I couldn't live in north London. South London is much more real.
"I'm slowly moving around the South Circular and now live in Balham and I like the idea that it has its own catchphrase as Balham - Gateway to the South.
"I've lived here since the 1980s so know it really well so it's a chance to introduce others to the delights of the area.
"It basically involves me taking a group of people and leading them on a merry dance around Balham.
"I take them to my favourite places and hidden gems - there is no theatrical set that compares with the outside.
"Sometimes you have to be a bit careful because if you crowd around a building the security guards get a bit nervous but they can have a sense of humour.
"I will quite likely improvise if I come across people I like the look of - I tend to surround them and talk about them, not in an offensive way of course, but just chat really.
"I'm older now and less foolish so this one will be much more genteel," he chuckles. "But it will still be a bit of a laugh and a bit more out there than a children's tea party!"
But he admits he doesn't as yet have a definitive plan for the evening.
"I don't know yet where we will be going exactly," he muses. "I know roughly where we are going to go - but there is always an element of surprise with a set piece at the end.
"I will need to have a couple of things set up along the way so I'd better get cracking on it!"

Visit to buy tickets and for starting point.

We Will Be Free - Bussey Building

FRESH from their success with The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the Bussey Building in Peckham, Townsend Productions is back with a new show We Will Be Free.
Set in 1834, it follows the extraordinary true story of George and Betsy Loveless.
George was a Methodist preacher and the leader of the six Dorsetshire farm labourers who were tried, convicted and condemned to harsh transportation by the Government for having the temerity to swear a secret oath and form a union to fight against a succession of wage cuts inflicted by the local landowner.
The piece has been written by Neil Gore, who starred in the Ragged Trousers and who will take the part of George.
He said: "It's a vitally important piece of theatre in the same vein as Ragged Trousers - in fact it was that production which inspired me to write this one.
"It's a focus on another aspect of labour history and it's a story that needs telling and re-telling.
"George was a methodist lay minister and self educated - he taught himself to read and write which was amazing in those days.
"I knew about the story before I wrote the play but not about all the detail so it's been fascinating to research it. I hope we can do these incredible people justice with the story because it must have been an overwhelming time for them.
"But it chimes with what is happening in terms of people having to work longer hours for less money.
"It's an extraordinary tale of determination and courage and that drives the story.
"And I'm so pleased we will be bringing it to the Bussey Building again as part of the tour because it's the most amazing space, incredibly creative and really fits in with the piece.
Neil will be joined by Elizabeth Eves to tell the story but music is an integral part of the production and will feature songs and hymns from the highly acclaimed folk singer and squeezebox player, John Kirkpatrick as well as puppetry and a backdrop of cartoon animations.

We Will Be Free takes place at the Bussey Building on November 29 and 30 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 (£8 concessions and £5 unwaged). Call the Box Office on 020 7732 5275 or online at

Seussical, Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street

A SYDENHAM based director is bringing the stories of one of literature's favourite authors to life this Christmas.
Kirk Jameson is working with Greenwich and Deptford based theatre company Sell A Door on a production of Seussical, a musical which fuses the famous Dr Seuss stories of Horton Hears A Who and Horton Hatches The Egg.
The cast of 12, which is currently in rehearsal at Make Believe Arts in Deptford, will be taking the show to the Arts Theatre in the West End.
It follows on from last year's successful run at the Great Newport Street theatre but this year features a new cast and Kirk as director.
"It's a lovely show and was very successful so we are very pleased to bringing it back," says Kirk.
"It's got a great score and I'm a huge fan of Dr Seuss so it was a no brainer for me to want to direct it.
"It's really exciting especially as I am coming into it new. I didn't see it last year as I was doing other things so I'm putting my own stamp on it and coming at it with completely fresh eyes and fresh ideas."
For those who don't know, it features Dr Seuss's Cat in the Hat as the narrator who takes the audience on a journey into the world of Horton the Elephant.
Horton discovers a small world floating by on a speck of dust but this small world, inhabited by the Whos, is floating out of control through the universe.
Caught between a dust speck and his incubating egg, Horton must find a way to look after both.
"It's got lots of levels so will appeal to both adults and children," says Kirk.
"Children in particular have incredible imaginations and are completely able to be challenged on a creative and intellectual level by all the themes in the story."
And the 29-year-old says he is relishing bringing a production to the West End.
"I started working at the Union Theatre in Southwark three years ago and have learned such a lot from Sasha Regan who runs the theatre there.
"She's opened my eyes to the ability of being able to tell stories on stage without big budgets.
"Theatre isn't about expensive sets and how much money can you throw at everything. It's about telling a really good story.
"Working in the fringe sector you are forced to use your imagination and that's been an incredibly good grounding for me.
"But now I'm really excited to be able to spread my wings to the West End - it's an incredible moment for me and I'm so proud of the team because it's going to be a fantastic show."

Seussical is on at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street between November 30 and January 5, 2014. Tickets from £22.50. Call the box office on 020 7836 8463.

Merchant of Venice


Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road.

Alexander Shenton as Bassanio and Rosemary Lippard as Portia

Stephen McNeice as Shylock.

A dimly lit stage made up entirely of an oversize and sturdy boardroom table which dominates the room is the setting for Lazarus Theatre company’s production of Merchant of Venice.
The show, now on at the Jack Studio Theatre above the Brockley Jack pub, is a trimmed down affair. At a mere 100 minutes a good chunk of Shakespeare’s text has been given the chop.
But the essence of the play is very much still there with all the action taking place in, around or on top of the enormous table.
When Bassanio decides to woo Portia he borrows money from his wealthy friend Antonio. Antonio believing his ships will bring him home a fortune readily agrees to lend Bassanio the money.
But before his fortune is realised and to pay Bassanio, Antonio takes out a loan with Shylock, a Jewish moneylender and a man who Antonio has insulted in the past because of his religion.
So sure is Antonio that his ships will come in that he readily agrees to Shylock’s bond which is a pound of flesh if Antonio fails to repay the loan.
However, although Bassanio successfully woos Portia, Antonio’s fleet is lost at sea, and with it his fortune, and Shylock demands his bond be paid in full. It is up to Portia, disguised as a lawyer to save the day.
The play itself is now regarded as a difficult one to put on given its apparent anti semitism. But this production is successful thanks to director Ricky Dukes, his top notch cast and their excellent interpretation of the text.
There are some elements that are curious – for example the sometimes slo-mo movements. But generally it is a lively and spirited show which brings Shakespeare's humour to the fore but which does not shy away from some of the darker themes.
And there are some stand out performances most notably Alexander Shenton as Bassanio, Rosemary Lippard as Portia and Stephen McNeice as Shylock.

The Merchant of Venice is on at The Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road until December 7.
Tickets £13. Call the box office on 0844 8700 887

Friday, 15 November 2013

Nut at the National



NUT, now on at the award-winning Shed stage, is a tough one to crack. Making her debut for the National Theatre, the play has been written and directed by debbie tucker green - who seems to dislike capital letters. 
It is about depression and self harm and centres on Elayne, played beautifully by Nadine Marshall.
As the 70-minute play progresses, we see how she craves isolation - evident in her refusal to replace batteries for the doorbell - the results of her self-harming and the relationships she has with her few friends and family.
To begin with Elayne is sitting amongst a pile of lists, and making one about her funeral arrangements - she's not dying but she is clearly depressed. 
This constant portrayal of doom is irritating her friend Aimee, played by Sophie Stanton, who winds her up about how she would organise Elayne's funeral and how many people would come to her own.
As a result the two spend much of the first scene bickering about the arrangements to these non events whilst trying to outdo each other on whose funeral is going to be the most well attended.
The sub plot concerns Elayne's sister - known only as Ex-Wife and her former husband - known only as Ex Husband who enjoy a heated argument about who has the closer relationship with their 11-year-old daughter.
Indeed Sharlene Whyte and Gershwyn Eustache Jr's powerful, humorous and poignant performance really lights up the stage in an otherwise gloomy atmosphere.
Although there is some ambiguity about this play - for example, it is not clear where it is set or whether the boy who comes on is Elayne's son, or if he is dead or alive - what is clear is the huge sadness that hangs over the proceedings. 
It may depress you but it is a production which is both poetic and well acted.

nut runs until Thursday, December 5
Tickets cost from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3244.
Twelfth Night at the Rose Theatre, Bankside


Tim Welham as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Venetia Maitland as Maria and Richard Fish as Sir Toby Belch

Esther-Grace Button as Viola
TWELFTH Night is one of Shakespeare's best loved plays and a new adaptation by theatre group Permanently Bard has brought it beautifully to life at the Rose Theatre in Park Street.
Pared down to a mere one hour 45 minutes, it races along with much jolity, slapstick and all the Shakespeare ingredients of mistaken identities.
When Sebastian and his twin sister Viola are shipwrecked both are rescued independently and believe the other to be dead.
Viola puts on a man's garb, calls herself Cesario and goes to work for Count Orsino, who is in love with the lady Olivia. She will have none of him as she is mourning for her brother.
However, things change when Olivia meets Cesario and falls in love with him. Matters are complicated further when Sebastian turns up with his friend Antonio and is mistaken for Cesario and vice versa.
Meanwhile, a sub plot takes place involving Olivia's uncle, the aptly named Sir Toby Belch and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Olivia's maid Maria wreaking emotional and psychological havoc on Olivia's steward Malvolio.
Although the cutting of a good chunk of the text has caused some of the intricacies of the plots and the finer details to be lost, it is the strength of the acting that carries this through and makes it a great production.
Indeed, all the actors have a real energy and seem very much at home on the Rose's tiny stage but make good use of the wider archaelogical site in which it lies - the scene in which Malvolio is in jail is particularly striking as he is seen languishing in a dank and damp recess at the back of the site.
But it is Richard Fish as Sir Toby Belch who steals the show. He perfectly conveys the nastiness of the character in his bullying of Malvolio but shows also his softer side when trying to woo Maria.
And he has pretending to be a drunken slob down to a T.
This is a fabulous production - spirited and fun. Just as it should be.

Twelfth Night is on at the Rose Theatre, Park Street until Saturday, November 30. Tickets cost £12. Call the box office on 020 7261 9565. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Simple Minds

WHEN Jim Kerr was eight years old he met Charlie Burchill at school in Glasgow. It was to be a pivotal moment in his life. The two became inseparable and went on to form one of the most successful pop bands in history - Simple Minds.
However although they started out in 1977 it wasn't until the 1980s that they gained commercial success with a string of hits that included Don't You (Forget About Me).
With more than 30 years in the business under their belts they've had an astonishing career - releasing more than 30 singles, countless albums – six of which have gone to number 1 in the UK - sold millions of albums across the world and won numerous awards.
And despite their fare share of staff comings and goings over the intervening years, and the inevitable minor disagreements that comes with any relationship, the pair have weathered the storms sticking together to gain a reputation as not only one of the most hardworking bands in the business but as a group of musicians who have been responsible for some of the most innovative and enduring anthems in rock music.
To celebrate, this year has seen the band launch a greatest hits album, Celebrate – The Greatest Hits +, and embark on a world tour which includes a trip to Greenwich's O2 arena at the end of this month.
"It's been a great year for us," Jim tells me. "In particular we're really excited about the album as it includes two new tracks, which we are very proud of.
“The tour is going great too so life is pretty good.”
The 54-year-old was speaking ahead of the Greenwich date on November 30 which he says will be "extremely special" - not least because 80s band Ultravox will be making a guest appearance.
"I love touring and doing live shows and we will be visiting four UK stadiums including the O2 as part of this latest one which we are really looking forward to.
"The O2 is a fantastic venue and we love playing there - and for this gig not only will we be playing as many of the hits as we can, the two new songs and a few surprises, but we've also got Ultravox with us so it will be amazing.”
For most musicians, life on the road can be exhausting and lonely but not so for Jim or the band – indeed he says it’s just the opposite, proof of which can be seen by looking at their extensive tour history.
"A lot of people tour but don’t really like it,” he says. “They miss home. However, for us, although we have a life outside, this is what we wanted to do right back from when we were kids and we are still passionate about it and love it.
“We embrace it. In fact I would even go so far as to say we were born to do this – so when we are on tour we want as many people to hear us as possible which is why we play clubs, theatres, festivals and stadiums.
“They are all totally different and I enjoy them all. It’s uplifting. But whether it’s performing to 100 people or 10,000, we want to give our best and all these years later that’s still the case.
"I still get a real kick out of it," he adds cheerfully. "In fact I'm a bit of a nomad, in that I have spent most of my life travelling all around the world but it suits me – it’s who I am.”
And although he says Scotland and in particular Glasgow, where he was born and brought up still has a special place in his heart, these days it’s all about the open road.
"I'm at my happiest discovering new places and not being tied down to one particular part of the world,” he says.
"And I’m sure this restlessness and nomadic spirit has influenced the music over the years – it’s certainly reflected in some of the earlier albums like Empires And Dance.”
As well as the tour, writing new material and releasing the greatest hits album, Jim has also set up a Simple Minds YouTube channel.
"Social media is great and I've really embraced it," he chuckles. "Because we are on the road so much it's a great new way to reach out to our fans. It’s fantastic as we can upload footage of our gigs and show people what we are up to.
“It’s all about forging a new relationship with the fans all over the world and it’s great to be able to have that kind of platform.
“Facebook is also a big part of our lives and I’ve done a blog diary for 10 years now which is on our website.
“The writing is a bit nonsensical – it’s about how it’s going or not going in the studio and snap shots of what we are doing on the road.
“But it’s a great thing to do and I really enjoy it.”
Despite all this activity, the reputation for being one of the hardest working bands doesn't sit easily with him.
"I don't know if we can live up to that cliché,” he laughs. “We do a lot and are passionate about performing live, but while remaining active is crucial, our desire to keep improving is every bit as important and make sure our audience has the best time at our gigs.
"I love the fact we are still here though, still have people who listen to our music and want to come and see us. It's very satisfying," he adds warmly.
But it’s his relationship with Charlie which he says has been the best and most important part of being in the band.
"I have been very lucky. We’ve played and collaborated with some amazing people over the years – Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, U2 and Peter Gabriel are just a few and all of them are our idols.
“We could never have forseen how things would turn out when we started. I have to pinch myself every day to remind myself how lucky we are!
“But my biggest reward is Charlie – he’s my best pal. We are still great friends, have a laugh together and mostly we see things the same way – it’s just fantastic.”

Simple Minds will be playing at the O2 in Greenwich on Saturday, November 30. Call the box office on 0844 856 0202.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Spanish Tragedy


THE Spanish Tragedy might as well have been called People Pie given the amount of dead by the end of proceedings.

Written by Thomas Kyd it is thought to have influenced Shakespeare's play Hamlet among others.

It has been given a fresh outing by Lazarus Theatre Company at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell and it certainly packs a punch.

Essentially it is the story of how Andrea, slain in battle in a war between Spain and Portugal, wreaks revenge on all and sundry with the help of the spirit Revenge.

But as ever with these revenge tragedies it is slightly more complicated than that and at times during this particular production, which was pared down somewhat, it was rather confusing.

The action starts after a battle which has seen the Portuguese defeated and the Viceroy's son Balthazar captured by the Spanish.

The Spanish King gives the spoils of war to his nephew Lorenzo and Andrea's best friend Horatio and puts Balthazar in the charge of the scheming Lorenzo.

Meanwhile Andrea's widow Bel-imperia falls for Horatio who in turn is killed by Balthazar aided by Lorenzo. There then follows a series of betrayals, liaisons and deaths until there really is no one left.

The production succeeds on many levels though I wasn't sure about the women sewing a curtain at the back of the stage. But the cast, large in number, all got to have their moment and there were a number of standout performances - particularly the many death scenes.

In particular Roseanna Morris as the King of Spain reminded me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland with a slightly mad and wild smile fixed to her face for much of the play.

Danny Solomon as Hieronimo who carries out a series of murders to avenge the death of his son Horatio gives a fine portrayal of a father who goes mad with grief.

Felicity Sparks as Bel-Imperia and George Clarke as the Portuguese Viceroy also shone.

And if you have not made the trip to the Blue Elephant, you should. It's great and well worth the effort - and if you are resident of Camberwell postcodes of SE5 and SE17 there are a limited number of free tickets for the shows.

The Spanish Tragedy is on at the Blue Elephant Theatre, Bethwin Road until Saturday.

Visit for shows, times and prices.

The Scottsboro Boys

IN 1931 nine black teenagers boarded a train in Scottsboro, Alabama, in search of a new life. By the end of their journey, their lives – and those of every American – would be changed forever.

The boys were falsely accused of raping two white girls and were arrested, tried and found guilty.

Over the next seven years there were more trials and appeals and despite one woman recanting her story, only four of the boys were found not guilty and the rest received either prison or death sentences.

The case, which deeply divided America, had a powerful effect on American history and the American Civil Rights Movement. It is now widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice that led to the end of all-white juries in the American South and other major Supreme Court rulings including the right to proper legal representation.

But behind the headlines was the devastating story of nine young men, desperate to prove their innocence to the world.

In 2010, it provided the inspiration for a musical - The Scottsboro Boys - by award-winning composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb that was nominated for 12 Tony Awards including Best Musical before it closed on Broadway in December that year.

But now it's being revived and will receive its UK premiere at the Young Vic on Friday October 18 ahead of a two month run at the Waterloo-based theatre.

It will be directed by Susan Stroman, Tony Award-winning director and produced by Catherine Schreiber who says it’s been a labour of love to bring it to the London stage.

“I have never been more passionate about any other show,” says Catherine ahead of rehearsals. And as we chat it’s clear she’s totally serious.

“It’s just one of those stories which gets you right there,” she says. “It is the most tragic story, a total miscarriage of justice in the treatment of these young men who accused of something they didn’t do.

"However, there are so many people growing up who don’t know what happened and I wanted to change that.

“It wasn’t widely reported outside America so I'm really proud to be able to bring these boys’ story to the UK."

“I think it will resonate in different ways with a British audience and I think they will see the story more objectively."

And she says there was never any doubt as to where it should be performed.

“We always wanted to bring it to London and our number one choice was the Young Vic,”she enthuses.

“The creative team here take risks, are incredibly inventive and have a fantastic energy and they were immediately keen to do it when I approached them.

“It’s not a typical show – it’s certainly not Mary Poppins – it’s edgy, upsetting, disturbing, moving and direct but it is entertaining. The music is breathtaking, the dancing is amazing - I’ve never been so moved.

“Also the audience profile fits perfectly – young, multi-cultural, up for shows which are thought-provoking and keen to see something new and innovative which this definitely is. And of course it’s in the best part of London. It was the perfect choice.”

Taking the lead role of Clarence Norris - one of the nine teenagers - is Adebayo Bolaji, fresh from his success as Harpo in The Color Purple at Southwark's Menier Chocolate Factory.

Gently spoken but with a clear passion for his craft, the 30-year-old – whose acting credits have included James Bond film Skyfall – says there was never any doubt he wanted to be involved.

“I didn’t know very much about it before I auditioned, but having read up on it and then being offered the part of Clarence it was a complete no brainer.

“Clarence was the only one sentenced to death although he was later exonerated and pardoned.

"I want to do the character justice because this is such an important story, and still hugely relevant, so for me as a young black man it's important it's told.

"There are still issues about racism and peoples’ attitudes even now. I think the presentation of young black men in this country is somewhat towards the negative and many are ostracised, misunderstood or objectified.

"That said, I’m really lucky to have been born 30 years ago in London - had I been born in the 1900s it would have been different because of the colour of my skin."

But he insists the musical is far from doom and gloom.

“This isn't just another story about people being mistreated," he says. "Yes, it explores the legal side of the case and discusses nine black boys who were accused of something they didn’t do simply because of the way they looked.

“However, it's simply an amazing production - hard hitting and heart breaking and will make people think - but with humour, fantastic choreography and stunning music.

"Ultimately it's a human story that should be told so I’m really excited and honoured to be part of it.”

And he says he is equally pleased about performing in one of his favourite places.

"I love this part of South London because is so vibrant and it's always really buzzy especially round the theatre.

"And I love the Young Vic and some of the best plays I have ever seen have been staged here – it’s an incredible place and to be able to perform here is a dream."

The Scottsboro Boys is on at the Young Vic, The Cut, Waterloo between October 18 and December 21.

Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7922 2922.