Brass – REVIEW

Brass – REVIEW

Union Theatre, London 


“Brass is a fine and respectful commemoration in this year of the Armistice centenary.”


Union Theatre, London


Seen November 7th, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes


2018 marks the Armistice centenary, so it is fitting that the musical Brass is being performed at the Union Theatre in recognition of the commemorations marking the end of World War One.

Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre in 2014 and written by Benjamin Till (with additional lyrics by Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker), it tells the story of an amateur brass band from Leeds who enlist to the Army and go to the front line in France to help their fellow countrymen in battle. But the story that is told is also as much about the women who are left behind, and their worries about loved ones and whether they’ll ever return.

Act one starts as the ‘band of brothers’ demonstrate their adept skills playing their brass instruments and it also sets the scene of their relationships with the ladies working in the local factory, the ‘Barnbow Lassies’. The lads are a cheerful bunch and their decision to enlist, whilst being a worthy one, is perhaps made without fully realising the full consequences of what they are letting themselves in for.

One of their brethren, Morrie (played by Lawrence Smith) is not yet old enough to enlist, but this doesn’t deter him from wanting to join his colleagues in battle. This decision will eventually have a huge impact upon them all, but it is the first loss of one of their own, Harry, that brings into sharp focus for the rest of the band the full horrors of war.

Brass, running at 2 hours 55 minutes (including interval), could easily have been nearly three hours of a desperately dark tone and you couldn’t have argued, given the topic, if that had been the case. But to give Benjamin Till (and his co-creators) credit, he has managed to integrate some good humour and light amongst all the darkness of war. One of my favourite lines of the evening was “Can I share your blanket tonight?”. It was done with deft humour but at the same time, highlighted the limited comforts that the guys had on the battlefield.

Titty’s poems (the wonderful Samantha Richards) was another case of being able to lighten the mood as the ladies dealt with being stuck in a factory and feeling pretty helpless for the lads at war in France, their main contribution being writing letters to those on the front line alongside, of course, creating the munitions for their war heroes. Tamsin Dowsett is one of many highlights within a magnificent ensemble cast and is almost matronly-like in her role of factory manager Miss Grimsby, a character who relishes keeping her ladies in check!

Act two features the ladies deciding to form their own brass band, notwithstanding their lack of playing experience! Again, this is another aspect that brings some comedic balance to the solemn proceedings happening elsewhere.

Morrie being underage eventually has devastating repercussions. His questioning by a commanding officer is one of the highlights of the evening, and Lawrence Smith shows incredible emotions as he struggles to deal with how to handle the situation under much duress.

Two of the prime characters in Brass are Eliza (Emma Harrold) and Wilfred (Maison Kelley), and one of the most heart-warming moments in the show is when they meet for the first time when Wilfred returns home on leave. Harrold is enthralling, she is captivating throughout and her performance of Could Have Been was stirring and heartfelt.

Brass draws to a close when the men begin their assault on the enemy’s front positions, or to put it more accurately they begin their suicide mission. To the echoes of their battle cry, “We do this together”, the results are stark in their brutality. The band of brothers fought as one, and they fell as one.

There are some wonderful songs in Brass, including Keighley, Billy Whistle, the eponymously-titled Brass and Scared, which deals well in capturing issues with love both on the front-line as well as back home in Leeds. The size and scale of the Union Theatre stage can pose some issues with choreography, but Sasha Regan and her team have done a great job here. I also noticed during You’ll Always Have A Friend there was perhaps a doffing of the cap to Bob Fosse’s choreography of Chicago – whether that was the case or not, nice moves!

Brass tells a fascinating story of a bunch of amateurs deciding to become soldiers in an effort to help their country. Overall it strikes a fine balance between the brutality and horror of war, whilst trying to shine a light on the positive traits of those in battle and those left behind in Leeds. It also factors in some of the other issues that prevailed at the time, including homosexuality and societal hierarchies (not that, to some extent, they don’t remain an issue today).

An excellent ensemble cast does a tremendous job of portraying Benjamin Till’s story, with not a weak link amongst them. With expert direction and staging by Sasha Regan, Henry Brennan as Musical Director, and together with the rest of the creatives involved, Brass is a fine and respectful commemoration in this year of the Armistice centenary.

Brass is playing at the Union Theatre until November 24th. Tickets ad more information can be found at

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

King’s Head Theatre, London


GUY! A New Musical

King’s Head Theatre, London


Seen August 31st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes


This musical is about Guy, an overweight millennial gay man and his search for true love. Played by Brendan Matthew, Guy thinks he doesn’t fit into the gay community and his struggles to find the right partner provides the focus for this story. He shares an apartment with Tyler (Steve Banks) and the relationship goes through a number of ups and downs; friendship troubles emanating from Guy setting up a fake profile on the dating app Grindr using Tyler’s picture. Tyler’s distant partner (Adam Braidley) sees the picture, assumes Tyler is on the latter’s ongoing conquest to find love.

Meanwhile, Guy has decided to lose a few pounds in the hope that a fitter body will make him more attractive and therefore easier to find a suitable partner. It is this storyline where Guy meets Aziz (Seann Miley-Moore), a young, fit, good-looking man of whom Guy thinks someone like that would never fall in love with him. In a way, they are a bit of an ‘odd-couple’, but actually have much more in common than each of them initially realise. Their friendship blossoms, but Guy is afraid to take it to the next level for fear of scaring Aziz away. This causes its own problems when Aziz reaches forward for that first kiss; Guy’s self-doubt and insecurities come crashing down on their relationship and it’s then a question of whether or not things can be retrieved or are their irreconcilable differences?

There only four actors in this show and Brendan Matthew shows admirable qualities as he remains on stage for pretty much the whole of the two hour show, portraying Guy’s qualities and inner demons well. Special mention though goes to Seann Miley-Moore who gave a captivating performance and was seriously impressive.

This was my first visit to the King’s Head Theatre. It’s a very small venue, albeit with a surprisingly wide stage. The intimate setting actually worked well for this show, and with only four actors there was plenty of space for them to express themselves. The staging was simple; no scenery as such, just a few props on stage; but this didn’t detract from the storyline. More so, it puts more emphasis on the dialogue and the acting, with no peripheral frills to be concerned with.

There was a sharpness to the script and lyrics, with some cutting one-liners expertly delivered by the cast. Being slightly critical though, I did feel that parts of the dialogue were a bit contrived and some of the scenes in between the 14 songs could perhaps do with a bit of trimming so as to maintain the momentum of the overall show. My only other criticism is that there were a couple of scenes where it wasn’t clear (to me at least!) whether the dialogue taking place was a virtual conversation or a physical one.

Overall, this modern love story serves as a reminder of the dangers of social media. A reliance on a virtual world of the Internet and dating apps to build relationships and to find ‘the one’, is not necessarily a path to success – especially when all may not be as it seems. For anyone though, gay or otherwise, Guy’s tale can serve as a reminder to us all to look in the mirror, accept yourself for who you are, and don’t try to become something you can never be. Embrace your own qualities, focus on the positives and be proud of YOU!

From Numbers to Words: the development of ‘Myth’ 

I saw Myth back in 2016 at the Cockpit theatre under its previous name, ’27’. For those not aware of this story, it is heavily based on Ancient Greek mythology. More specifically, Orpheus and his encounter with the underworld. As the rock score would imply it is a modern rendition of this historical tale. Over the past two years it has gone back into development. Here, I will be making a note of the changes I notices and whether I personally feel that they were beneficial for the shows development.

–Keeping in line with my other posts, I shall be keeping this very honest.–

I do have to say this right off the bat before we go any further  – I don’t like the new name. It is so generic. My response to the name change was ‘myth, of what?’. 27 was much more catchy and more unique. It gave the insight as to what the show was about without revealing too much and was still enough to spark people’s curiosity. Having spoke to Sam Cassidy after the 2018 show, I still stand by my view. His reasoning behind the name change is valid however I feel it could have been executed in a better way. I don’t feel that Myth markets the show as it should do and is actually underselling it currently. If I hadn’t have previously seen 27 and I had stumbled across Myth’s page on The Other Palace’s website I would have been, “Okay, if I get around to seeing it, I’ll see it”, It wouldn’t have gone straight to the top of my theatre list.


When I saw the show back in 2016 the only real criticism I had was the script. It had a real amateur feel to it. Something which I would have expected to see from a GCSE candidate. I was very pleased to see that the 2018 production had had a lot of work done on it script wise. It seemed so much stronger. Back at the cockpit it wasn’t until act 2 that you actually realised the story whereas now it is made clear from the onset. The script seems a lot more engaging with quick little one-liners throughout. Those did make me chuckle. It was a nice touch having these as the show is very dark so it was almost a relief to be laughing at moments. There was one scene in act 1 where Orpheus meets Hades for the first time in the Underworld and for me that was the weakest part in the script. It seemed incredibly long winded for what was happening. I actually did lose interest and was willing for the next number to start because I knew how great the music was! But to only have this in one part of the show was a great step up.

Side note on the script – I adore the fact they kept the section on “hey, boy. What are you thinking about?”. My heart melted. “You, my favourite thing” Gone. Love it.

I really like the fact the ‘fates’ had more of a presents this time. It felt like they did anyway. It was great seeing a deeper characterisation of them. Atropos being the ‘mummy’ fate and keeping the other two in check and then jumping to the other extreme with Clotho who seemed to be the youngest with a purer heart.

I understand that this was a workshop production so the budget was very limited however I would definitely like to see more of a difference in the reality and the underworld. Just to make things a little clearer on the audience’s side. Same goes with the character appearances. I loved the way the ensemble were predominately in black but I did think Orpheus and the other band members didn’t have a real rock look. They could have easily passed for a mediocre pop group (which, I suppose, is what they are to start with!). I just wasn’t getting that rock star vibe especially from Orpheus.

This 2018 version had a lot of new songs added. Some I was able to catch and noted that they were the new ones but they all blended in so well. Went so naturally together. So much so, some I completely believed had already been in the show. Once again, the music is just incredible. It is always a positive when you come out of the theatre singing the songs. One of the new editions which actually closed the show was great! Definitely the anthem of the show. I mean, it was rather cliche. I really up beat, feel good song but it is a well justified remedy after a show touching on some depressing elements.

The characterisation of Hades definitely changed but I appreciate this will differ from actor to actor. Ryan Malloy gave it a more edgier feel whilst portraying the sinister side. After all, he is the devil! Whereas this time around it was more…annoying. It was the very typical *insert British accent* “proper British devil!”. You didn’t want to hate or like him, rather ignore him.

I know this post seems incredibly negative however I really do want the best for this show. I absolutely adore it and will continuously be raving about it. It has such great potential and I cannot wait to see it blossom into the next West End hit!

I did review the workshop production at The Other Palace is you are interested in reading that too!

The Braille Legacy – REVIEW

The Braille Legacy
Charing Cross Theatre, London

Seen on May 27th, 2017


The Braille Legacy

Charing Cross Theatre, London


Seen on May 27th, 2017

Reviewed by Jade Prince


A touching true story of the trials faced by Louis Braille, a blind teenage boy in 19th century France, as he strived to create a life changing tool which has helped to benefit millions of blind people around the world.

Whilst blind children were shunned by society and left to the care of the run down orphanages many of the children, and adults caring for them, lost hope. However, Louis never did.

I personally found this a beautifully touching story line with superb lyrics and vocals to accompany them. Jack Wolfe stood out from the onset of the show. His voice was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time. I found it drew you into the character and was just so enchanting! As a whole, the ensemble all together sounded gorgeous throughout.

Costume wise it was kept very simple although detailing on the 19th century attire was visible. The adult cast members were clothed all in black and the children all in white with black blind folds (visualising them being blind). I think it was done very tastefully and really got the message across.

I have to admit, I came out feeling very unsure about the set choices. It consisted of a two level structure (resembling a building) in the middle of the stage which was able to pivot 360 degrees. While at some points during the show the structural movement worked well and was visually pleasing along with the cast movements, it seemed slightly redundant the other times. It was not very clear when sets had fully changed or which sets remained the same. I point this out but it did not detract much from my viewing experience. I think maybe the rotating structure would have worked better in a larger theatre. Charing Cross theatre is a very small and intimate space.

As a new musical it has masses of potential: great concept, amazing score and a unique honest story. I really look forward to seeing where it may go in the future.

The Braille Legacy is at Charing Cross Theatre until June 24th. Tickets available at