Wednesday 13 October 2021

Tell Me on a Sunday

 Curve, Leicester

12th October, 2021

Dreams never run on time

The Watermill Theatre’s 2016 production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s one-woman, one-act musical has been revived for a UK tour. Tell Me on a Sunday (1979) centres on Emma, an English woman navigating the ups and downs of love and loss in Manhattan. Originally performed in the West End in 1982 as part of the double bill Song and Dance, and perhaps once a curio of Lloyd Webber’s work, Paul Foster’s production is fresh, stylish and beautifully carried by Francis Goodhand’s musical direction and a star turn from Jodie Prenger.

Lloyd Webber’s music and Don Black’s lyrics prove to be a song writing masterclass. There is something rose-tinted about Tell Me on a Sunday: Emma’s idealistic belief in love is largely unwavering; the English girl in search of the American Dream is a romantic idea; and Black’s playful lyrics, particularly in the title song, show Emma’s inclination towards optimism. But this is balanced with the turbulence of emotional conflict, accepting heartbreak and being let down in songs such as the show’s anthem, ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’. What I liked about Foster’s production is that he cleverly keeps the period setting without it feeling dated. Whereas others might be tempted to drag the setting into the present which could jar with the music and story, the effect of keeping it in the 1980s feels romantic and classy. After all, the experiences of the highs of love and lows of loneliness are timeless.

The audience instantly warms to Emma thanks to Prenger’s strong performance. She captures the wide-eyed sense of adventure from being in New York whilst also convincingly staying grounded with a sense of British wit and cynicism. Lines about the size of sandwiches in NYC and Black’s lyrics about Los Angeles in ‘Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad’ remain as funny as they are true. She plays the show’s conversational style very well and maintains Emma’s sense of hope. This is all played out on David Woodhead’s gorgeous design of Emma’s stylish apartment and a mini New York skyline, skyscrapers and Brooklyn Bridge becoming part of the furniture.

Overall, the intimate song cycle of Tell Me on a Sunday followed by a Q&A with Prenger and further musical numbers in the second act make for a great night out!

Tell Me on a Sunday plays at Leicester’s Curve until 16th October and then tours the UK until 20th November. For further dates, please visit Tell Me On A Sunday (

Jodie Prenger in Tell Me on a Sunday. Credit: Tristram Kenton

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Matthew Bourne's The Midnight Bell

 Curve, Leicester
11th October 2021


‘Maybe if I loved you less

Maybe you would love me more’


A new piece from Matthew Bourne is always a talking point and a treat to get dance fans excited. I’ve been a fan for around a decade now, having seen several of his shows at Curve, and his latest venture, The Midnight Bell, proves that Bourne has lost none of his choreographic innovation, verve and heart that has made him a legend of the British theatre scene.

Bourne has teamed up with frequent collaborators, Terry Davies (composer), Lez Brotherston (design), and Paule Constable (Lighting), to put the New Adventures signature spin on working class life in 1930’s London. What may seem an incongruous source material, the novels of Patrick Hamilton, turns out to lend itself well to Bourne’s lyrical style. Blending stories and characters from Hamilton’s oeuvre, the piece follows a disparate group of people as they traverse the streets and social mores of the Great Depression era. A young prostitute struggles with the affections of a fanciful bartender; a middle-aged spinster gets revenge on her cheating lover; an awkward marriage proposal unsettles the local barmaid – the place that links them all is The Midnight Bell pub, where lonely hearts congregate to drink away their sorrows.

There were some aspects of the plot that I found problematic, namely the resolution of the thread linking George, a schizophrenic, and flighty actress, Netta – the portrayal of mental health issues is not the most constructive – this seems to be a ‘Hangover’ (excuse the pun) from the source material. More successful is Bourne’s addition of a gay relationship between pub regular, Albert, and policeman, Frank. Bourne choreographs some beautiful pas de deux for them, in which the purity of feeling is pitted against the social attitudes of the time.

Brotherston’s set design conjures the pea-souper atmosphere of the smog-leaden, dingy streets of London; a world of mists, shadows and dark corners, the stage evokes a seductive seediness. Davies’ original score complements the setting without becoming a pastiche of the ‘olden days’. The music is strikingly modern in places, often accompanying the frenetic, hurly-burly of the ensemble set pieces, becoming thunderously percussive during the more dramatic scenes, and offering flashes of sumptuousness in the soaring strings that are suggestive of the high-romance films of the time. One of the most playful aspects of The Midnight Bell is Davies' frequent segueing into 1930s' popular music. Lip synced soundbites from classics by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter transport us into the fantasies of the characters, creating ironic contrasts with the scenes playing out around them. It’s a lovely, knowing way to draw the disparities between art and reality.

The cast succeed in creating highly empathetic characters, and I found that I got sucked into their lives as the show progressed. Michela Meazza is particularly memorable as the brittle, lonely spinster, and the clandestine relationship between Albert and Frank is touchingly played out by Liam Mower and Andrew Monaghan. Bourne has assembled a tight ensemble in which every person gets their individual moment to shine, creating an intimacy that can sometimes be missed from his more large scale shows.

The Midnight Bell is well worth a visit for fans of Bourne’s work. There is much to entertain and enthral, namely Davies' playful score, Brotherston’s evocative design and the exquisite performances from the New Adventures company. Bourne remains one of the most talented and intriguing theatre-makers and I am consistently in awe of his storytelling prowess.


The Midnight Bell tours the UK until 27th November. For all venues and dates please visit

The cast of The Midnight Bell
Credit: Johan Persson