Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen



Review by: Paul Towers, 27/2/19
Waitress by  Jessie Nelson (book) and Sara Bareilles (music & lyrics)
Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly
Adelphi Theatre, London from 8 February 2019

“laugh out loud, emotional.”

I am not sure exactly what I was expecting from Waitress, the musical. But it sure wasn’t the laugh out loud, emotional production currently running at The Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End.
This is the heart-warming story of three women who work in Joe’s Pie Diner somewhere in the deep south. The only redeeming quality about this archetypal American eatery is that its pies are the absolute cream of the crop. And this is down to the imagination and skills of pie maker Jenna.
Jenna (Katherine McPhee) is in an abusive relationship with Earl (Peter Hannah); Becky (Marisha Wallace) is her co-worker and is looking for lurve!; Dawn (Laura Baldwin) is the geeky virgin, too shy to talk to any guy. All three ladies have great singing voices. Marsha Wallace was, unsurprisingly, playing Effie in Dreamgirls recently while Katherine McPhee was an America Idol finalist and successful recording artist. Laura Baldwin is just a consummate musical theatre professional.
The script, like the very best of Corrie, veers skilfully between laugh out loud one liners to heart rending sobbing. The soundtrack superbly matches the emotions with the stand out number for me being She Used To Be Mine which earned McPhee a well deserved standing ovation halfway through the second half.
High physical comedy is provided by Dr Pomatter (David Hunter) and Ogie (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer making his West End debut)
The set by Scott Pask rolls in and out to move the action from the diner to the Doctor’s office to Jenna and Earl’s shabby home with ease. An on stage band provides a nice deep sound to the production.
Director Diane Paulus has created a beautifully rounded piece of theatre that works on so may levels and leaves you with a warm glow as you exit the heavily themed foyer of the Adelphi


American Idiot 2019

Review by: Paul Towers, 26/2/19
American Idiot by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer,
music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
A Selladoor Production
Haymarket 26 February – 2 March 2019

“energising and anthemic.”

I first saw the cult rock show that is American Idiot 3 years ago when it toured and hit Curve. At the time I found it energising and anthemic. My view hasn’t changed in the intervening years. This touring version retains the energy and innovation of the original with some noticeable tweeks, especially to the set.
American Idiot started out as a concept album by punk band Green Day. Additional songs by the band were added as the story was expanded into a full stage musical. Symptomatic of American youth of the early 20th century, our anti heroes are searching for a way to escape their soul destroying non-lives.
Jonny (Tom Milner) is the main protagonist of our band of disillusioned American teenagers reeling from the cataclysmic disaster of 9/11. He lurches from one disaster to another with his heroin addiction ultimately losing him the love of his life. Tunny (Joshua Dowen) is Jonny’s best friend but rather than falling down the rabbit hole of drug addiction he joins the military where he is seriously injured and loses a leg. The silver lining is that he finds true love with his nurse. Will (Samuel Pope), the last of the triumvirate, has his dreams of travel and escape thwarted when his girlfriend falls pregnant and he opts to do the decent thing and be a father.
As we took our seats a TV screen showed snippets of newsreels from 2001; George Bush, the twin towers, the resultant misery. They all contributed to our trio’s despair and sense of worthlessness.
The show opened with a bang as the punk rock soundtrack blasted out the title track, American Idiot, and the stage filled with dancers. The choreography by Racky Plews sizzles as the exuberant cast bounce around. Creative lighting design by Tim Deiling makes sure that every inch of the complicated set is used and highlighted whenever needed.
Not everything is hearty and entertaining, although there are quite a few laughs shoe-horned in. One very brave moment, well more than a moment, occurs when Jonny graphically shows the horror of trying to find somewhere to inject his desperate fix of heroin. The silence and explicitness is terrifying and the entire audience held its breath for him. Nonetheless you come away with a sense that, despite the horrors of their journeys, these youngsters may very well end up making something of themselves.
American Idiot is on at Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 2nd March
Tickets are available at, but hurry as some days are almost sold out

First published on Western Gazette


Gypsy Queen

Review by: Paul Towers, 25/2/19
 Gypsy Queen by Rob Ward
Produced by Emmerson & Ward
with Hope Theatre Company,
directed by Adam Zane
Curve 25 February 2019

“tight, energetic and hilarious”

The latest event for DMU Pride at Curve is the award winning Gypsy Queen.
Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson is the son of a boxer, a potential champ. He is gay. All his mates at the gym know, his dad knows. But no-one talks about it so long as he is discreet. He has a regular partner, sort of, but the relationship is confined to the bedroom. God forbid they get seen in public together.
‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell is a bare knuckle fighter wanting to go legit and become a boxer. He is beginning to realise that girls are not for him. Oh, and George is a traveller, one of the most unforgiving communities when it comes to not being straight.
When these two meet sparks fly and love blossoms.
Rob Ward has written an illuminating tale of colliding worlds played out in the most masculine of environments, the world of boxing. You can almost smell the testosterone as these two toned fighters circle each other before falling into bed together. Although there is a lot of serious fighting going on (verbal and physical) there are also a lot of laugh out loud moments, especially from Mother O’Connell, matriarch of the traveller family.
Just two actors, author Rob Ward and Ryan Clayton, swap characters at an alarming rate, switching accents and costumes sometimes merely by turning around. Director Adam Zane has created a tight, energetic, hilarious staging of a play that should be required viewing for all youngsters in all communities.
The final stop of the current tour is in Ipswich on Thursday but further information can be found at

The entire schedule of all events for DMU Pride can be found at
and the final show at Curve is Joan on Thursday 28 February
Fisrt published on Western Gazette


Pretty Evil

Review by: Paul Towers, 21/2/19
Pretty Evil by Rhodri Hales, produced by Hivemind Theatrical Solutions
A Leicester Comedy Festival presentation
Upstairs @ The Western, 21-22 February 2019

“the love child of Austin Powers and Monty Python”

Costumed villains have been defeated and the world, or at least this little bit of England, is costume villain free. Until, that is, three wannabee villains in shoddy costumes get together to try and bring evil back to the world. Very quickly on the case is Diane Newsmore, a dodgy news anchor more at home on Fox News and with just as much of a grip on actual facts.
Add into the mix two community support workers tasked with getting to the root of the costumed felons’ use of the community centre and you have the love child of Austin Powers and Monty Python in the ludicrously hilarious capers in comic book adventures.
Author Rhodri Hales plays Dr Thunder, the ‘brains’ behind the gang; Lucy Ann Jones is The Lady Killer, the cynical, world weary one just making up the numbers and Matt Garside is Mega Matt, the completely clueless one with lame ideas. Three more actors make up the company.
Pretty Evil is on at Upstairs at The Western again tomorrow (Friday)

Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette



Review by: Paul Towers, 20/2/19
Drip, words by Tom Wells, music by Matthew Robins
Performed by Josh Tucker, directed by Jane Fallowfield
A Script Club & Boundless Theatre presentation for DMU Pride
Curve 20 February 2019

“a sweet, undemanding story of teenage angst"

Liam is 15, gay and geeky. None of which really bothers him except he wants to fit in at school. To that end he allows his best friend Caz to inveigle him into being part of her synchronised swimming display for the Project Prize at school. The only problem is that Liam can’t swim. But help is on the horizon in the shape of  his slightly older crush who volunteers to give him swimming lessons. Over thinking everything, Liam tries his hardest not to let his bestie down.
Despite this being part of DMU Pride Liam’s sexuality has absolutely no bearing on the story. Which is as it should be.
Josh Tucker as Liam has just the right hesitant delivery to make his portrayal believable. A gently witty script is augmented by a raft of original songs played by Tucker on a guitar. All in all a sweet, undemanding story of teenage angst.
Now we come to the one thing that almost spoiled it for me. Quite a few members of the audience had to be told to stop using their phones during the show. Not only is it incredibly distracting for other audience members but is hugely disrespectful to the actor onstage. My especial ire is reserved for the ignorant girl/woman sat in front of me who, despite being told not to use her phone, continued to check her Facebook and even film parts of the performance.

Full details of Curve’s DMU Pride events can be found at or via the Curve website
The entire schedule of all events for DMU Pride can be found at

First published on Western Gazette


Twin Peaks

Review by: Paul Towers, 19/2/19
Twin Peaks by Mandy Tootill
Upstairs @ The Western, 19 February 2019

“facing breast cancer with a quip and a filthy joke.”

Throughout Leicester Comedy Festival Upstairs at The Western has hosted a whole raft of shows that highlight mental health issues but Twin Peaks is all about one woman’s fight with breast cancer. And what is the best medicine? Laughter.
Mandy Tootill felt a lump 10 years ago while watching Coronation Street (the details only bear repeating on a stage!). She has now been in remission for 10 years but those intervening years saw the horror and humiliation of chemotherapy, extreme weight loss (not something she regrets) and the inevitable hair loss. The benefit, of course, is that she now has the perky breasts of a 20 year old just as she stumbles into premature menopause brought on my her treatment.
Fortunately her partner is an NHS nurse and that, as she recounts with glee, is like having a hot line to NHS Direct when it comes to needing a medical opinion.
Many women would crumble before the onslaught of cancer, but not Mandy. She faced it full on with humour. As she says, you either laugh or cry and she chose to laugh.
Listening to Ms Tootill smacking cancer in the face with a quip and a filthy joke makes you walk away with the assertion that, should you ever be unfortunate enough to follow in her footsteps, you could, hopefully, battle through in the same in-your-face manner.
Check out her website for further opportunities to catch this savvy Manc on tour.
Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette


Rubber Ring - DMU Pride

Review by: Paul Towers, 18 February 2019
Rubber Ring by James McDermott, directed by Siobhan James-Elliott
Performed by James McDermott for DMU Pride
Curve 18/2/19

“an assured performance”

James McDermott’s debut play is a largely autobiographical reflection of the frustration of growing up in the rural backwater that is Sheringham in Norfolk. As his mother says ‘it’s fine to be born here, great to retire to but you don’t want to spend the bit inbetween here’
As the sexually confused 16 year old fictional version of himself, Jimmy latches on to his hero, Morrisey, for inspiration on how to live. To this end he tries desperately to get to London and the gold paved streets around the O2 to see his idol in concert.
His adventures getting there awaken an awareness that, as Dorothy says, there is really no place like home. Even if it is somewhere to come back to sometimes.
McDermott’s writing has very obvious shades of Alan Bennet and Victoria Wood in his ability to paint a complete picture with few words.
Looking very much like a young Derek Jacobi McDermotts assured performance brings a whole host of characters to life before your eyes in a laugh out loud, poignant story of coming of age.
I can see exactly why this show was scheduled for DMU Pride, it is a comforting assurance that those teenage doubts and uncertainties can be confronted and dealt with.
As part of DMU Pride at Curve on Wednesday 20th February there is Drip, a one man musical comedy about a 15 year old synchronised swimmer who can’t swim. Monday 25th February sees Gypsy Queen’s return to Curve by popular demand. On Thursday 28th February there is Joan, a drag king’s homage to the men she defies. Finally, for those feeling brave, there is a dance workshop on Friday 22nd February for those who want to learn to walk or dance in heels. Or maybe just take a class for the hell of it!

Full details of Curve’s DMU Pride events can be found at or via the Curve website
The entire schedule of all events for DMU Pride can be found at


Those Magnificent Men

Review by: Paul Towers, 15/2/19
Those Magnificent Men by Brian Mitchell & Joseph Nixon
An Ornate Johnsons & The Foundry Group presentation for Leicester Comedy Festival
Upstairs @ The Western, 15 & 16 Feb 2019

“hilariously entertaining and educational”

Year in year out The Foundry Group return to Upstairs at The Western to tickle our laughter buds with diverse productions such as The Ministry of Biscuits, Gilbert (No Sullivan) and Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks. This year was a welcome reprise of Those Magnificent Men, a tongue in cheek homage to the bravery, ingenuity and sheer British spunk of aviation innovators John Alcock and Arthur Brown, the first people to fly non stop across the Atlantic Ocean.
In trademark Foundry Group style the daredevil story of daring do is told with a mixture of comedy and drama. We sat in the audience, hearts in our mouths, as the intrepid pair coaxed their converted Vickers biplane (2 tables, a couple of chairs and 4 broom sticks) across more than 1000 miles of fog bound sea with only the most primitive of  instruments to, just, land safely in West Ireland to national acclaim.
Played with relish by the author Brian Mitchell and long time side kick David Mountfield this is an hilariously entertaining and educational story of old fashioned Boys Own adventuring. Both actors play an array of characters, often with outrageously inappropriate accents. As always The Foundry Group stage their shows on a shoestring but the make-do props and scenery only add to the hilarity.
Those Magnificent Men is on again tomorrow (Saturday) with limited tickets available. Grab a seat and prepare for an evening of adventure by the seat of your pants.

Upstairs at The Western
Details of the continuing tour can be found at
First published in Western Gazette


How to act windy

Review by: Paul Towers, 14 February 2019
How To Act Windy by Pritchard & Morgan
Upstairs @ The Western, Thursday, 14 February 2019

an hilarious misadventure in education

Schadenfreude is the satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune and Katie Pritchard and Eleri Morgan in How To Act Windy deliver that satisfaction in spades.
The two girls were, for some time, reduced to working on a Theatre In Education foreign tour about dinosaurs aimed at children 3-5 years old. This is the edited highlights (lowlights?) of possibly the most inappropriate and badly organised tour ever thrust upon the world’s toddlers.
With extracts from the “script” and horror tales of bad organisation the girls drag us through an hilarious misadventure in education. The highlight, of course, is a pair of dinosaurs onstage. Make of that what you will.
Details of future performances can be found at

Leicester Comedy Festival
Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette


Pol Penter - Sertaline Queen

Review by: Paul Towers, 11 February 2019
Sertaline Queen by Pol Penter
A Leicester Comedy Festival presentation
Upstairs @ The Western, 11 February 2019

“a very funny lady”

Following on from her sold out appearance at the Camden Fringe Pol Penter follows it up with a sold out performance at Upstairs at The Western as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival. The show was so popular that extra seating had to be put in.
In the past no-one talked about mental health and people bottled it up and suffered in silence, often making it far worse. There was little help. Now we are surrounded by people sharing their experiences and allowing conversations to be started and help sought.
Pol Penter suffers with anxiety and depression. Not that you would know it from the almost manic confidence she displays on stage. This is the result of the prescription Sertaline she takes. That and the fact that she can get up on stage and talk about coping with depression.
Although born and bred in Bradford she now lives in London and the north/south divide colours a lot of her comedy to great effect. Working for an American university in the UK also provides her with a rich seam of comedy.
Her tales are interspersed with original songs and the hour flew by.
Catch this very funny lady if you can. Information about upcoming appearances can be found here
Details of all Leicester Comedy gigs can be found at

Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette


Damon Conlan

Review by: Paul Towers, 10 February 2019
Damon Conlan, Jocular Prestidigitator
Leicester Comedy Festival
Upstairs @ The Western, 10 February

“hilariously bumbling magic.”

Ever since the comedy juggernaut that was Tommy Cooper dropped dead onstage there has been a dearth of  comedic conjurors and magic manipulators. Damon Conlan goes some way to filling that void. His bumbling persona teeters on the precipice of failure throughout his 60 minute set at Upstairs at The Western. But somehow he always manages to save himself from disaster.
Damon likes to call himself a Jocular Prestidigitator because it has long words in it and makes him sound clever. Which he is, though not in the way you immediately think.
With a winning mix of good close-up magic and sarcastic humour Conlan mystifies and entertains as he gently rips the audience apart while often seeming to lose his way. There is lots of audience participation so don’t be shy.
Details of future gigs can be found at

Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette


The Barn Ultimatum

Review by: Paul Towers, 06 February 2019
The Barn Ultimatum by Tom Allsopp
Upstairs @ The Western, 6th February 2019

“a gloriously bonkers story"

What would happen if Chicken Run was crossed with Animal Farm? The Barn Ultimatum is what would happen.
This gloriously bonkers story is of a group of animals who, after 20,000 years, have finally twigged exactly why humans feed them and give them clean straw for their beds. Meat.
Cow, chicken and pig get together to try and find out what is going on. Pig definitely knows something is afoot. Chicken is running around like she is headless and cow accuses pig of being paranoid and coming up with ridiculous ‘cowspiracy’ theories.
Of course all is finally revealed in an equally daft denouement.
The bright and witty script is littered with animal based puns and the tight cast of three (no names available, unfortunately) create mayhem culminating in a fabulously camp fight
Tom Allsop has created an animal world worthy of  Glen Larson at his most bizarre. A hoot from start to finish with a suitably weird soundtrack.
The Barn Ultimatum is the first of Upstairs at the Western’s Leicester Comedy Festival shows on over the next 19 days. Most days have two shows, some have three. The website contains the most uptodate listing.

Upstairs at The Western
First published on Western Gazette