Sunday 26 February 2017

This House

Garrick Theatre
22nd February 2017, matinee

After runs in the Cottesloe and Olivier auditoriums at the National and a short run in Chichester, James Graham’s This House, based on Labour’s turbulent attempt at ruling with a minority government between 1974-9, last week finished its run in the West End. We saw the final midweek matinee, a day before two important by-elections in Stoke and Copeland. Being revived four years after its first outing suggests how there will (I imagine) always be relevancies in This House. Indeed, there’s a line in the play about the absurdity of a referendum about the EU that easily and understandably gets one of the biggest laughs of the play. I can’t help but wonder if it was always in the play or if it had been added.

In setting the play in the seventies we not only see the fictional account of deals with the ‘Other’ parties and Labour’s struggle to retain MPs, all of which is perfect for drama, but it also allows Graham to compare the system between then and now. Amid all the excitement of backroom politics, This House exposes the flaws of the system: that it’s so often a 2 horse race, an either-or, and somehow still stuck on old ways that are no longer relevant or representative of the nation. I recently read on another theatre blog that theatre should ‘bin the binaries’ and have since been puzzling over what it means. The point seems more pertinent regarding this play as Graham has a lot of fun with binaries. It seems startling to think that the complex issues of so many different aspects of politics in this country were (still are?) boiled down to Labour vs. Conservative, one side of the house versus the other, regional accent or not, and, ultimately in This House, red vs. blue. Whether you’re Red or Blue apparently represents so many different things about class, upbringing and beliefs.
This may be the view of politics in the 1970s but it’s also how UK parliament operates now, even if the Labour Party is seemingly struggling and other parties such as the SNPs have more representation. Ultimately, it’s still a house of two halves. Such a reductive idea also brings with it accompanying stereotypes, some perhaps lived up to. These are telling when Tories and Labour describe their opponents, the former being presented as stuck up and privileged whereas the latter thought of as foul-mouthed, greasy haired moaners. No more are these clichés entertainingly realised and played up than in two successive scenes featuring a Conservative whip surprisingly liking but not understanding Coronation Street followed by a Labour whip reacting the same to opera. A southerner watching Corrie? A northerner liking opera?! Oh, how we laughed!

A striking image (clock pun!) in the play is the imposing face of Big Ben that looks down on the stage. Ticking away through two world wars, it is a symbol of a political system standing tall and carrying on through adversity. So when it stops at the end of Act I it’s an all too ominous sign for a government barely staying afloat as it is. The clock breaking is akin to the Palace of Westminster needing serious and urgent repair in the 21st century. One could even read into the dodgy dimming lights in the play as being another reminder of a failing structure.

A picture starts to build of a system crumbling under the pressure of a seismic cultural sea change to modernise. The contempt with which the smaller parties – the mere so-called ‘odds and sods’ – are treated and how they are taken for granted, ignored cries for debates about devolution, the shock to some MPs of women breastfeeding, and the amount of old men dying (whether technically in the Palace or not) echo current issues over the Houses of Parliament still largely being patriarchal and London-centric.

A co-production by Headlong, and directed by its artistic director Jeremy Herrin, the company puts (or used to) the word’s definitions at the forefront of what it does:

/headl’ong/ noun
1.      With head first,
2.      Starting boldly,
3.      To approach with speed and vigour.

Herrin’s production is no less than what you expect from Headlong: innovative, exciting, contemporary. The play is solid if perhaps a bit old fashioned (maybe from form reflecting content?) but together, play and production, This House shows the possibilities of what theatre can be: progressive and collaborative. It perhaps doesn’t provide the same optimism, however, in showing us what politics could be like.

Graham also explores the heavy reliance on archaic traditions. In The Vote, he examined how the weight of our democracy rests on the power afforded to rickety polling booths and pencils on string in school halls and social clubs all over the country. Here, there is a fascination in such things as the gentleman’s agreement of pairing; the farces surrounding nodding people through the house and dragging in the speaker; weird little idiosyncrasies such as swords, maces and wigs; and jealousies over the ruling party’s perks such as better chairs and ministerial cars.

I also like how the play is prone to quite savvy casting by including actors who perhaps have strong associations with previous work (not that that denies their versatility). As the public school, RP Tory whips we have Nathaniel Parker (not unaccustomed to playing politicians) and Malcolm Sinclair. On the other side, Phil Daniels and Steffan Rhodri (not to mention Philip Glenister in a previous cast). All of them are impressive at conveying the excitement and high pressure of being a party whip, roaming their offices like lions in a pit. Kevin Doyle also excels in a less showy role as the Labour chief whip in Act II, desperately grasping at straws to try to get Labour to complete a five year government.

Graham’s rich play is funny and adroit, exalted to another level by Herrin’s production, Rae Smith’s design, Stephen Warbeck’s music and Scott Ambler’s choreography which bring out and embrace its lively nature.

This House ran at the Garrick until 25th February, 2017.


Nottingham Playhouse
25th February 2017, matinee

Recently, I read Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell, rewritten and retitled in 1988 after its flop production in 1951 and rediscovered as a masterpiece, one which invites comparisons to Rattigan, Chekhov and O’Casey – it’s a stunning play. Set in a West End drinking club in the summer of 1945, the play was originally blasted as libellous on the British people, claiming to show the dregs of war as drunks and failures. But really, the play shows an un-airbrushed and kaleidoscopic portrayal of people scared of war and of loneliness. Stephen Lowe, in Touched, puts women’s struggles and experiences of WWII centre stage, daring to hope in the face of Britain’s uncertain future.

This is the 40th anniversary production of Lowe’s Touched and I have to admit I’m not sure if I’d heard of the play before this production was announced. One of the many new commissions that Richard Eyre programmed as Artistic Director of the Playhouse, this is apparently the first professional production to have authentic Nottingham voices at its core. This is mainly due to the casting of Nottingham’s Vicky McClure, Aisling Loftus and Chloe Harris as the three sisters at the heart of the play, set in the 100 days between VE day and VJ day at the end of World War II.

The start of the play sees Sandra (McClure), Joan (Loftus) and Betty (Harris) celebrating the end of the war in Europe and the beginning signs of summer whilst they are taking in the washing. But domestic duties aside, their war has been dominated by an intensified increase in working in factories to help with the war effort. We later see them working on an unsafe production line where Joan warns the foreman that “you should listen to us as once the election is over, we’ll have more power”. It’s one of many lines that are loaded with naïve optimism that equal pay rights are improving and that the suffering and sacrifice of the war will soon be over. Interestingly, the first scene is filled with references to nursery rhymes, Listen with Mother, and Bible stories. When Jimmy asks about how a story ends, Sandra replies ‘And they lived happily ever after, like all good stories should’. It’s a reminder that, in these 100 uncertain days of phoney peace, no one can guarantee the outcome of post-war Britain.

Lowe perfectly captures the so-called ‘still point of the turning world’ by evoking a sense of inertia from which the characters want to break free. They talk about the airless heat of the summer and wanting to open the windows, they talk of street parties but we don’t see any and food is still sparse. But above all, women are presented as grafters, both at home and work and a just as important part of the war effort as what was happening overseas. Although the play may focus on the marginalised stories and voices of WWII, there is also a pulsing sense of relevancy in Sandra’s anxiety over not taking the peace for granted. She reminds her mother that you don’t destroy things (in the war) to then forget about them. And in relaying the story of Noah’s Ark to her niece to explain that rainbows are signs that God won’t flood the earth again, Sandra is fixated with the idea that the sun may dry up the earth and all those on it.

Lowe’s writing, although rooted in Nottingham colloquialisms and vernacular, is poetic and still feels contemporary. McClure excels in the complex role of Sandra. Sat in a boiling hot bath getting drunk – having been persuaded by Joan to sit in a hot bath and be sick in order to lose the baby she got from a one night stand with an Italian Prisoner of War – we see how she is still in pain from losing her first child and that she feels anxious that the war has made her lose out from becoming a mother. In another poetic and visceral monologue, we hear how Sandra craved the touch of the POW, the ruffle of his clothes, the softness of his skin and thus the urge for something more.

Aisling Loftus perfectly conveys Joan’s ballsy and brash sense of defiance and a wanton to look ahead to the country’s future. Marching around the stage singing ‘Hitler’s only got one ball’ and telling Betty to move on from losing her partner overseas. It’s a brashness that has perhaps come out of necessity because of the hardship of war but we also see her caring side behind closed doors.

In the last scene, Jamie Vartan’s impressive period design takes us from the cramped confines of terrace housing to an expansive, airy hill where characters’ spirits are lifted. In a Beckettian last coup, bomb-like explosions befall the stage, the sky is drained of its bright warmth and the tree is stripped of its blossom whilst the family are still enjoying their breakfast picnic. It’s a striking last image which reminds us that whilst the dawn of a new world can be jubilant and offer a glimmer of hope, it also brings the worries of an unknown future.

Touched plays at the Nottingham Playhouse until 4th March, 2017.

Photo credit: Robert Day.
L-R: Elizabeth Rider as Mam, Esther Coles as Mary,
Vicky McClure as Sandra, Aisling Loftus as Joan, Sarah Beck Mather as Bridie
 and George Boden as Johnny.

Friday 24 February 2017

Twelfth Night

National Theatre
22nd February 2017

Twelfth Night is my favourite of Shakespeare’s comedies. I love the carnivalesque theme, the romance, and the fact that, for an early 17th century comedy, it’s actually pretty funny (which is more than I can say for the so-called ‘comedies’ Measure for Measure or The Tempest – granted they have been reconsidered as a ‘problem’ play and a ‘romance’, respectively). Not to mention the fact that the subversive themes of gender transcendence and sexual fluidity were way ahead of its time. These themes are even more relevant today in a society preoccupied (rightly so) with gender identity and LGBQT rights, and it is encouraging that Simon Godwin places this front and centre of his new production. Not only do we have the genre-defining confusion regarding Viola/Cesario/Sebastian and the tangled web of love-hexagons, but also a female Malvolia – who harbours a secret crush on her mistress, Olivia – as well as a female Feste and Fabia(n), and the relocation of The Elephant to a drag club. Whilst adding extra thematic bite, this casting decision also offers up some great roles for women, an issue of increasing pertinence within the arts.

The modern dress interpretation has a distinct 60/70’s feel – perhaps to echo the free love sentiments – which is realised in Soutra Gilmour’s geometric design. The stage is dominated by a giant pyramid staircase which unfolds, booklike, into numerous interiors. The glassy facades create a prism effect, reflecting the double-crossing and dual identities at play. It’s a glorious and hugely satisfying design.

From the opening atmospheric storm-scene, we hurtle through Shakespeare’s play at laugh-a-minute speed, buoyed by a supporting cast of cartoonish characters. With her little bursts of lascivious abandonment, Phoebe Fox as the entitled Olivia is wonderfully coquettish in her advances towards Viola. I barely recognised a physically transformed Daniel Rigby, who turns in a performance of comic perfection as Olivia’s dim-witted would-be suitor, Sir Andrew Auguecheek. From the moment he steps on stage in his pink checked suit, matching stockings and faux hipster manbun he is the epitome of the grinning buffoon, strung along by rock ‘n’ roll boozer Sir Toby Belch (Tim McMullen plays a fine drunk). At the centre of all the madness, Tamara Lawrance’s Viola is the beating heart, grounding her spirited soul-pourings with an earthiness that is occasionally off-set with youthful glee. Yet, as all the promotional material implies, Tamsin Greig’s Malvolia is the undoubted star of the show. In her early appearances as a strict school-mistress type she leaves the audience reeling with a pointedly, perfectly timed arch of an eyebrow, while her vaudevillian striptease takes the ‘yellow cross-gartered stockings’ scene to a whole new level of invention, sexuality and hilarity.

As you can gather, Godwin’s production is far from subtle, playing up the farcical humour while being an overt expression of free sexuality – I adored the Antonio/Sebastian kiss (Adam Best and Daniel Ezra), it felt like years of productions worth of pent up sexual tension was finally delivered! – yet he also doesn’t stint on the poignancy. For all our glee at Malvolia’s misunderstandings, I have always felt uncomfortable with the gulling scene – are we really supposed to laugh at the degrading humiliation ‘thrust upon’ her, merely as a consequence for questioning her social superiors? – yet here it is suitably cold and harsh, not funny in the slightest. Therefore, when Malvolia swears revenge we can’t help but both pity her and kind of root for her – it helps, of course, that Greig is an extremely sympathetic actor. In a piece of dazzling theatricality Malvolia makes her exit through a deluge of rain, stripped bare of her pristine wig revealing a shock of bleached hair, a mirror of the earlier letter scene in which she triumphantly frolics in a garden fountain. Much has been made of water symbolism in Shakespeare – however, this water has the opposite of a cleansing or illuminating effect on Malvolia, as she has been cruelly duped and finally must face cold reality. The closing montage (a lovely use of the Olivier’s revolve) emphasises the sting in the tail of the happy-ever-after; Malvolia’s fate is touching and uncertain, and thus, the fate of the contented couples is similarly uncertain as Feste (Doon Mackichan) reminds us that the ‘rain it raineth every day’.

Godwin is gaining good pedigree regarding his Shakespeare productions (his Hamlet at the RSC last year was equally as impressive) and Twelfth Night might be the best production of The Bard’s work put on at the NT for some time. Funny, touching, bonkers and stylish without sacrificing substance, I knew it was a personal favourite for a reason. If I could see it again I would jump at the chance.

Twelfth Night plays at the National Theatre until 13th May as well as being broadcast as part of NT Live to cinemas nationwide on 6th April.
Doon Mackichan and Tamsin Greig. Photo: Marc Brenner.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Nunn's tenure at the National and the perhaps unhelpful binary of new/old work

This is a quick response post on the article published today in The Stage where Trevor Nunn said that the ‘National Theatre has duty to both new work and classics’. His comment is in response to Michael Billington’s article, my thoughts on which can be partly read here.

So, I realise Trevor Nunn’s time as Artistic Director of the National was quite controversial. This is mainly because it is seen that he upped the amount of commercial productions staged, especially musicals, with some not liking that public money helped to fund My Fair Lady which went on to have commercial gains. However, he did achieve a balance between the amount of revivals and new plays he staged between 1997 and 2003. There were just under 50 new works staged at the NT under his time as AD, including Patrick Marber’s Closer, Tanika Gupta’s The Waiting Room and a world premiere of a Tennessee Williams’ play, Not About Nightingales. There were roughly 40 revivals (if anything slightly less than the amount of new work), including A Streetcar Named Desire, No Man’s Land and The Duchess of Malfi. I should note that about nine of these were Shakespeare plays which Billington excludes from his thoughts on revivals. But overall, it is quite a healthy balance.

But Nunn was AD for a shorter time than (I imagine) Norris is hoping to be at the National and so Norris’ longer term plans might be different. What’s more, to reiterate what I said in my last blog post on this, Norris is staging revivals this year including work by Shakespeare, Kushner and Sondheim, and has staged many revivals so far in his tenure. Also, I agree with what one writer said (I forget which), that in a time of potential political turbulence regarding Brexit and Trump, our National Theatre should be leading the way with work that that helps us understand the changing politics – although revivals can do this as well, Hytner’s production of Henry V is often a popular example of that.

My main point though is that this new obsession with the binary of ‘new/ old work’ is a possibly problematic view of how theatre is and should be made. During Nunn’s tenure, he staged about 20 works based on old texts given new versions, such as Ostrovsky’s The Forest (1871) in a new version by Ayckbourn, The Villains’ Opera based on John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728) and Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan (1940-43) in a new version by Tanika Gupta. Norris has done similar things with Marber’s Three Days in the Country, after Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, Marber’s new version of Hedda Gabler and Suhayla El-Bushra’s The Suicide after Erdman. Billington’s views, in my opinion, come with an underlying belief that the writer is autonomous and highly regarded. This is perhaps an old-fashioned way of looking at theatre making. Rather than the black and white Venn Diagram sort of programming that only sees productions on terms of whether they are old or new, isn’t it better to also remember how they can be based on older texts even if they are reworked to a more contemporary style and practice? I don’t know how planning a season at the National works (but I imagine it’s difficult!) but I imagine a lot of different boxes have to ticked and many quotas met. I’d prefer for the NT to carry on trying to concentrate on whether diversity (and all of the many things which that word encompasses) is being achieved rather than strictly having to ensure that they are balancing the amount of old work and the amount of new work that they are producing.

The National Theatre do have a duty to stage both classics and new work, which I personally think they are achieving, but thinking of their productions in a more fluid way rather than just the black and white terms of ‘is it new or is it old?’ might help how we see and approach theatre-making to move forward.

I have been referring to Daniel Rosenthal’s tome The National Theatre Story for statistics.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

The Wedding Singer

Curve, Leicester
14th February 2017

Surely it’s no coincidence that the new tour of The Wedding Singer launched on Valentine’s Day. It’s a show about love, engagement, weddings – or lack of weddings! – and it’s hard to beat for a date night with that special someone. Featuring a boppy pop score and cute romance, the musical centres on the ups and downs, loves and losses of the idealistic Robbie Hart (Jon Robyns), the titular ‘wedding singer’. While director/choreographer, Nick Winston’s, production is fun, frothy, and chock-a-block with tongue-in-cheek humour.

Entering the auditorium, the tone is set by classic 80’s movie trailers (The Goonies, Back to the Future) projected onto the stage. For anyone who remembers the 80’s the affectionate ribbing of the fads and fashions is endearing without being cloyingly nostalgic - (un)fortunately, I just missed out on the decade that taste forgot, but my mum assures me the references were spot on!. Jokes about Dallas and cell phones the size of suitcases, to Thriller-esque choreography are but a few knowing nods to our reminiscence. Improving on the 1998 film, the Billy Idol scene is a hoot and escalates to sheer meta-comic joy as an ensemble of well known ‘fake’ celebs join the climactic action.

The 80’s theming even stretches as far as the score, with several songs reminiscent of tracks from Madonna, Bon Jovi type ‘Hair Rock’ bands, and even The Sugarhill Gang in a thoroughly surreal moment involving Ruth Madoc grinding away to a ‘Rapper’s Delight’ style beat (‘Move That Thang’). Overall, there seems to be about equal measures of quality and filler in Matthew Sklar and Tim Herlihy’s score; some numbers don’t always seem to flow easily from the plot, hence scenes occasionally being a little choppy. However, the show is lifted by gems such as the wistful ‘Someday’, and punchy ‘Casualty of Love’, while the song that has undoubtedly seared itself into my brain is a number that has successfully been transposed from screen to stage, ‘Somebody Kill Me’, a hilarious exercise in post-breakup angsty indulgence. Being familiar with the film, and anticipating what’s coming only makes the song funnier.

The cast is littered with fine performances, notably from a scene-stealing Samuel Holmes as keyboardist, George, and an outrageously full-on Tara Verloop as Robbie’s ex, Linda. Nevertheless, this is Jon Robyns’ show. He’s a solid leading man, and has much more room to shine here than the last production I saw him in, Curve’s Legally Blonde. As Robbie, Robyns showcases his quintuple talents – yep, count ’em: he sings, acts, dances, has comic timing down to a tee, and, to top it off, plays the guitar! The acoustic numbers particularly show off his crystal clear vocals (occasionally the ensemble numbers felt a little drowned out by the band, a sound mixing issue, I assume) while Robyns’ natural likability ensures we root for his and waitress, Julia’s (a sweet Cassie Compton) relationship.

While The Wedding Singer is far from ground-breaking, it’s reassuringly feel-good, like putting on a pair of cosy slippers and settling down in front of a rom-com with a glass of wine and chocolates. This new tour should go down well with audiences as a charming piece of escapism during these cold winter nights and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your lips and a spring in your step.

The Wedding Singer plays at Curve, Leicester until 18th February, followed by a nationwide tour. For all tour dates visit

Tuesday 7 February 2017


The Little Theatre, Leicester
6th February 2017

It’s difficult to review Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth without giving away too many spoilers or plot twists (and the twists come thick and fast in Edward Spence’s production which ramps up the tension and sense of escalating hysteria). But it’s fair to say that it’s a play brimming with testosterone-fuelled one-upmanship and manipulation, while also presenting a wry subversion of the thriller genre.

Reclusive crime writer, Andrew Wyke (Kenton Hall), invites his wife’s young lover, Milo (Jaz Cox), to his grand manor house with the intention of making him an offer which could benefit both of them. However, the opportunistic Milo is unaware of the ulterior motives behind Wyke’s apparent generosity. The evening gradually descends into meticulously organised chaos as the men tussle for the upper hand and we, likewise, are continually wrong-footed. I would liken it to being trapped within a Hall of Mirrors; the story and characters continually warp before our eyes and you’re never quite sure what exactly is going on. It is a testament to the direction and masterly performances from Hall and Cox that Shaffer’s script (which in lesser hands could err too much on the side of farce) is handled with a confidence which ensures that each twist hits its mark.

Similar to Shaffer’s blackly comic Murderer, Sleuth plays upon recurrent themes of interest to the playwright, often involving binaries and the shades of grey between them; precision vs. chaos, fact vs. fiction, illusion vs. reality. Thus, an exploration of the motives and categorisations of crime provides an interesting perspective on modern morality and the increasing desire to be entertained – whatever the cost. Wyke’s obsession with games shapes the plot and is cleverly referenced in the set,  from old board games peppering his bookcase, to his suit-of-cards window frames and juvenile dressing-up box. Hall’s superb performance teeters atop a precipice between cold calculation and manic joviality as Wyke’s grip upon ‘the game’ gradually loosens, equally matched by Cox's progression from naive chancer into unnerving hysteria.

Shaffer’s, admittedly rather macabre, interest in crime thrillers is evident in his ability to both create a genuinely intriguing psychological mystery, while simultaneously highlighting the absurdities and well-worn tropes of the genre by cleverly subverting them – the ‘dim local copper’ being one. Moreover, instances of casual sexism and Milo’s comment regarding the use of foreign characters as comedy fodder in crime fiction illuminate the darker, more questionable aspects of what is often termed ‘cosy crime’ in highstreet bookshops, and my experience of Agatha Christie stories certainly supports this particular criticism.

Spence’s taut and highly entertaining production makes the most of an interesting script/concept which allows the small cast to truly shine.

Sleuth runs at The Little Theatre, Leicester until 11th February, 2017.
Photos by Matthew Cawrey (

Friday 3 February 2017

What's in a Name?

Birmingham Rep
2nd February 2017, matinee

Moroccan buffets, converted lofts, children called Gooseberry and Apollinaire. The trendy lefties have moved into the Rep in this dinner party comedy based on Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patelliére’s French play and film Le Prénom. Set at Elizabeth and Pete’s dinner party to congratulate her brother and his wife’s baby scan, the dinner soon turns sour when Vincent suggests they’re naming the baby Adolphe after a French novel. After being told that he can’t name a baby after Hitler by the mortified Peter and Lizzie, he changes the spelling to the more well-known ‘Adolf’, convinced that his son’s excellence will defy Hitler’s reputation. He later reveals he was joking, but this leads to a series of arguments. As you’d expect with this genre, home truths soon surface and relationships are tested. Beneath all the tajines, fancy plonk and swanky pad, they’re miserable, nursing grudges about turned down PhDs and marital tension. Some plot twists and jokes are predictable but it’s a timely and funny harpooning of the perceived cosmopolitan lifestyle.

The left has perhaps been somewhat underrepresented in the media lately, and it’s interesting to consider where What’s in a Name? fits into that. It ridicules the faux hipster left (perhaps the right wing’s idea of the left) but how far can this play really go to satirise them when it probably simultaneously assuages us, the audience? It may be an easy watch and we soon slip into chuckling at couscous but that isn’t the play’s fault. Indeed, Jeremy Sams’ adroit adaptation (superbly transposed to contemporary London) is interested in stereotypes and how we come across. Of course the characters think that Carl, the camp trombonist who has lived in San Francisco, is gay (despite being one of their closest friends). And of course they adopt a Scottish accent when enacting stinginess. It is Daily Mail reading and Mercedes driving Vincent that says he doesn’t care how he comes across, refusing to read the Guardian to simply make him look superior. Overall, this is an astute class comedy about how every word and outward image is loaded with political meaning.

Dramatically, What’s in a Name? may offer nothing new but its satirising of the middle classes is as funny as an Ayckbourn play or Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Sams’ production is finely tuned ensuring that the dinner party platitudes believably descend into farce. Nigel Harman does a solid job as the antagonising Vincent, winding his old friends up with Fuhrer forename proposals, although you have to question the character’s morbid sense of humour. Sarah Hadland and Jamie Glover (the latter being well experience in farce after Noises Off) are also impressive as the married couple stuck in middle class inertia, one not happy with her job and the other not happy with his family life.

Complete with a mini Shard in the background and a (I imagine) rather neat way of getting Nigel Harman from upstairs to the front door in a matter of seconds, Francis O’Connor’s handsome rooftop apartment design has come straight from a home improvement magazine. Fairy lights on the patio, bespoke lifestyle units, and uber chic furniture make up this (*Kirsty Allsopp voice*) ‘cosy’ starter home.

What’s in a Name? deserves a longer run and would easily be at home in the West End as a refreshing alternative to another upcoming revival of Abigail’s Party.

What’s in a Name? runs at Birmingham Rep until 11th February, 2017.

Sarah Hadland, Olivia Poulet, Raymond Coulthard, Jamie Glover and Nigel Harman. Photo by Robert Day