Following a sold-out run at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre, the NT has embarked on a UK tour of its acclaimed production of Hedda Gabler and is at Milton Keynes Theatre 27 February – 3 March.

Lizzy Watts plays the title role along with Madlena Nedeva (Berte), Christine Kavanagh (Juliana), Abhin Galeya (Tesman), Annabel Bates (Thea), Adam Best (Brack) and Richard Pyros (Lovborg).

Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

This vital new version of Ibsen’s masterpiece by Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright Patrick Marber (Closer, Three Days in the Country) is directed by Ivo van Hove, one of the world’s most exciting directors. Olivier and Tony Award-winning van Hove made his National Theatre debut with Hedda Gabler, which ran in repertoire at the NT’s Lyttelton Theatre during 2017. .

Lizzy Watts’ theatre credits include Strife at Chichester Festival Theatre, The Angry Brigade and Artefacts at The Bush, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe, Blink for Nabokov and Wasted for Paines Plough. TV includes The Durrells and Midsommer Murders and plays Ivy Layton in BBC Radio 4’s Home Front.

 Hedda Gabler is at  Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd March.

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or online:

Hedda Gabler herself is not a nice person. Having just got married for all the wrong reasons, she comes back from honeymoon and quickly feels trapped. She’s witty, cunning, vicious and vivacious. Sadly for her and those around her she vents her frustrations upon those people that if she were normal she might love – and love dearly

.Set and lighting design for Hedda Gabler is by Jan Versweyveld. The play is set in the newly-wed’s apartment. Large and so far sparsely furnished. Hedda herself mentions that the room is all wrong and its hard to breathe. It was so huge that I would have thought breathing was one of the few things you could do in comfort, this room reminded me of the Amazon building. Just a very large  white square panelled box with a French windows onto an imaginary balcony. There were no doors, so the cast (frequently) entered and left via the audience – a move that I thought was distracting and almost reminiscent of pantomime.

The highly experienced and more than capable cast all gave fine performances – even whilst galloping backwards and forwards up and down the aisles and steps from the auditorium onto the stage!

As you might expect, there was a fair amount of precious arty nonsense being trotted out in the foyer, one person was heard to sum up those comments with “Isn’t it wonderful! I love it when a play really makes you think……………….I had to ask my friend with me to explain it all to me!” Yes I’m afraid there is an amount of The Emperor’s New Clothes about Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler – we’ve all been told just how wonderful it is for so many years………

Ernie Almond.

Hedda Gabler is at  Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd March.

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or online:

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is just that!

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL, Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 24 February.

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL received its Broadway premiere in January 2014 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre where it continues to play to packed houses and throughout 2015/2016 it toured the US. The London production ended its triumphant two and a half year run at the Aldwych in August.

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL has a book by Douglas McGrath with words and music by Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  The show tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.

Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, including one of the best-selling albums of all time, Tapestry, and countless classics such as (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Take Good Care of My Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, It Might as Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof and The Locomotion. The show also includes the Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann hit songs You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling, On Broadway and We Gotta Get out of This Place.

Bronté Barbé plays Carole King, she was a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s BBC1 television series “Over The Rainbow” in 2010. Since then she has appeared on stage in both London’s West End and around the UK. Previous credits include “Cool Rider” in the West End and ‘Princess Fiona’ in the UK Tour of “Shrek -The Musical”. She most recently starred in “The Wild Party” at The Other Palace.

Kane Oliver Parry (playing Gerry Goffin) has starred in “Carousel” and “Sweeney Todd” at London’s Coliseum. West End credits include “Wicked” and “Urinetown”, “The Light Princess” at the National Theatre and the International Arena Tour of “We Will Rock You”.

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL, is at  Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 24 February.

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or online:

Jhez Bermudez went along to see the show in Milton Keynes and these are his thoughts:

I was not sure what to expect when I went along to see Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, but I needn’t have worried – it does what it says on the tin! It is beautiful! With a strong story, a stellar cast lead by a stunningly good performance by Bronte Barbe, fabulous music with a very good live orchestra lead by Patrick Hurley, strong acting against some brilliant sets designed by  Derek McLane what was there not to like?

Apart from being a very good true story that was approved by the great lady herself, Beautiful brings home to you just what a prolific songwriter Carole King has been. Her first professional recording when she was sixteen, the names of other singers that have recorded her songs reads like a who’s who of the International music industry. As for Carole’s own recordings, although her album Tapestry usually springs to mind, this show reminds us that quite apart from writing for others, she has recorded no less than 25 studio albums.

All these facts and figures would mean nothing if the show itself weren’t presented with such panache and slick professionalism. Whether you prefer Celine Dion to Mariah Carey or Aretha Franklin to James Taylor there is something for you in this show – and if you’re very lucky you might – just might – get a ticket!  Thoroughly recommended!

Cinderella’s Prince is an Airman!

The much-anticipated return of Matthew Bourne’s “CINDERELLA” is at  Milton Keynes Theatre from 13th – 17th February.

Matthew Bourne said: “Cinderella is one of my most heartfelt works and a personal favourite amongst my re-imagined classic stories. I’m delighted to have brought together this cast of current star performers, experienced New Adventures veterans and exciting young talent. I’m thrilled to see another generation of Company dancers take on this beloved production”

Fresh from their triumph playing Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes”, the role ofCinderella’ will be performed by Cordelia Braithwaite and Ashley Shaw.

Credit : Johan Persson

Cinderella’s heroic Pilot, ‘Harry’, will be performed by Will Bozier, Andrew Monaghan and Dominic North.

‘The Angel’ (Cinderella’s ‘Fairy GodFather’) will be danced by Paris Fitzpatrick and Liam Mower.

‘Sybil’, Cinderella’s Step-Mother, is performed by Madelaine Brennan and Anjali Mehra.

‘Robert’, Cinderella’s Father is performed by Alan Vincent and Dan Wright.

One of New Adventures’ most loved productions Matthew Bourne’s “CINDERELLA” is a thrilling and evocative love story, set in London during the Second World War. This interpretation of the classic fairy tale has, at its heart, a true war-time romance. A chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella and her dashing young RAF pilot, together just long enough to fall in love before being parted by the horrors of the Blitz.

With Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous costumes and sets, which won an Olivier Award for his original designs, and lighting by Olivier Award-winning Neil Austin, “CINDERELLA” will be performed in Surround Sound, designed by Paul Groothuis and features a specially commissioned recording played by a 60-piece orchestra.  Matthew Bourne’s vivid story telling has never been more heart-stopping and touching, and will take the audience into the heart of Prokofiev’s magnificent score, and the sights and sounds of war-torn London.

2017 marks 20 years since “CINDERELLA” first premiered in the West End and it concludes a year-long celebration of work to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of New Adventures.

“CINDERELLA” is at  Milton Keynes Theatre from 13 – 17th February.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online:

I have been on, in and around theatre for getting on for three score years and ten and have learned a bit, but I wouldn’t presume to know enough to criticize Matthew Bourne production. The man is – and I don’t ever remember using this term in print before – a genius! All I can do is to describe what I saw and try to persuade you to go and witness Cinderella at the MK Theatre this week.

Prokofiev,s wonderful music was used in the original Bolshoi production of Cinderella in 1946 and the well know Frederick Ashton version in London. But who apart from Matthew Bourne, would come up with the idea of using the same score, but setting the whole thing in London during the blitz? He says that it was when he heard the Prokofiev sat and wrote the piece during the Second World War that set him thinking.

Well, it worked! This is certainly different, the story is used magnificently, but the usual “handsome prince” is a wartime pilot suffering from the after effects of a crash. Every member of the cast is a separate character that we get to know as the story unfolds.

There are Step sisters, a pretty nasty stepmother as you might expect but watch out for Angel danced brilliantly on the night we were there by Paris Fitzpatrick. No standard ballet positions here, twists, turns and occasionally contortions the like of which you might see on a solo dancer on BGT and did I notice a little nod towards moon walking?

We see ARP Wardens, spivs, prostitutes and rent boys. The surround sound is wonderful for the recording of the 60 piece orchestra – and it certainly helps as the bombs begin to drop!

I’ve been careful not to give too much away, but believe me this is a new treatment that works perfectly and is mesmerising to watch. A far cry from Sir Frederick Ashton, but I’ve a strong feeling that he would love it!

Get a ticket if you can!

Ernie Almond

“CINDERELLA” is at  Milton Keynes Theatre from 13 – 17th February.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online:

“Eccentric but Endearing Comedy” at Magdalene College

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is William Finn’s Tony award-winning musical and it’s at the Cripps Auditorium, in Magdalene College, Cambridge from 13th – 17th February.

An eccentric but endearing comedy, the show tells the story of a hilarious Spelling Bee though a unique mixture of musical numbers, improvisation and audience participation. Six high-schoolers face their fears, dreams and angst in a bid to gain a slot in the National Spelling Bee. Overseen by adults who are seemingly stuck in adolescence themselves, the result is a bawdy journey about competition and growing up. It manages to strike the perfect balance between being surreal, realistic and touching.

 Rehearsal photograph

Director, Leo Béar, was drawn to taking on the musical due to its particular combination of eccentricities syas “It combines the best parts of musical theatre, from catchy songs and well-explored characters to fantastic punchlines and a story you actually want to see through to the end.” Uncommonly, Spelling Bee also involves ad lib and audience participation. Realising that this is something he never “imagined working with in theatre”, Béar promises that these techniques add an entirely “special something” to the show; no two performances will be exactly the same.

 Refreshing, bold and wistful, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical that stands out against the crowd – and gets the crowd involved.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is at the Cripps Auditorium, in Magdalene College, Cambridge from 13th – 17th February.

Tickets available online: