The Tower Archive

Reaction to our shows
The Tower Archive

Reaction to our shows

Here's a selection of comments we received on our productions during 2016 ...

Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes

Using little more than draped curtains, Lisa Castle's stage design evokes the foggy streets and smoky parlours of Victorian London - particularly effective is Moriarty's underground lair, where a hanging sheet represents the Thames running above. Robin Snowdon's spotlight-heavy lighting design gives the sense that the action is taking place on the precipice of some dark morass, and its pulsing score is well chosen by sound designer Laurence Tuerk, sounding straight out of a Guy Richie Holmes movie.

The sheer amount of love and care put into Sherlock Holmes shines through, resulting in a production that is easily as good as anything you could see on the London fringe.

The Holmes of Gillette's script hides roiling emotions beneath a brittle exterior, and Farrance nails this side of the character with style. Costumed by Jessica Hammett and Naomi Liddle, Farrance's Holmes looks effortlessly suave in formal black dress with a natty mini-magnifying glass hanging around his neck. He plays Holmes as awkward, remote and compulsive; seeking danger to fill a void in himself. He displays glib bravado when confronted with villains, and fidgety existential agony when alone in Baker Street.

The other characters, many of them the broadest of archetypes, are played to their fullest by a skilled cast. Robert Irvine is a fresh-faced, earnest Doctor Watson. Peter Novis is his doddering butler, and the pair get a lot of laughs late in the play. Francesca Wing exudes sadistic menace as Craigin, ringleader of a gang of roughs (Samuel Currie-Smith and director Andy Marchant).

Professor Moriarty (Penny Tuerk) first appears in shadow, barking orders in an androgynous voice obscured by an electronic effect. When her right hand man Bassick (James Keene) reveals her plans have been scuppered once again by Holmes, Moriarty turns to the audience to heap opprobrium on the great detective, revealing this play's ace. Andy Marchant's choice to recast Professor Moriarty as a woman brings a central but, if we're being honest, fairly vague canon character bang into focus. Tuerk plays Moriarty as a terrifyingly enigmatic little old lady, slipping seamlessly between cool efficiency and spitting rage. Tuerk is totally convincing as a university professor gone rogue, and the change of gender works so well because of her performance. When she and Farrance are on stage together, the material shines.

You can tell the Tower have been doing this a long time. The sheer amount of love and care put into Sherlock Holmes shines through, resulting in a production that is easily as good as anything you could see on the London fringe.

(Review by Rob Tamplin)

Perfect Nonsense Jeeves and Wooster in "Perfect Nonsense"

The performances from all three actors are very good: Theo Leonard demonstrates a truly elastic face and an endearing cluelessness as Bertie Wooster; William Baltyn remains impressively composed as Jeeves, but also gets to go completely overboard when two of the characters he plays are on stage at the same time, having an argument; Michael Bettell shows off a hilarious range of physical ticks and traits with every new character he plays ... A jolly good evening at the theatre, old chaps.
(Theatred blog)

... all the characters are played by the very-talented William Baltyn, Theo Leonard and Michael Bettell. The threesome put on an absolutely hilarious performance. Leonard plays Wooster the whole time, and he creates and maintains a comedic energy throughout the play that is simply superb ...
... Baltyn plays an amusing Jeeves, but he also - along with Bettell - takes on the role of any of the other characters. The two interchange between the roles brilliantly and with excellent comic effect ...
Overall, the show was fantastic ... it helped me finally decide on my favourite sort of theatre - clever comedy, with a generous scoop of ridiculous!

(Rachel Watts for West End Wilma. Awarded 4 stars)

Road Road

Dan Usztan's direction is very good, managing to knit all the various scenes together well. ... Rob Ellis's 1980s soundtrack is very good and helps to link all the scenes well. Lily Ann Coleman's costume is fantastic ... Each member of the seven-strong, mostly young, cast play 3 or 4 characters. All of them move from scene to scene/sketch to sketch seamlessly and they do work very well together. Each sketch starting out full of hope before ending in disappointment and, in one case, tragedy ... (Dickon) Farmar leads the play as our narrator and guide, Scullery ... (his) delivery is excellent and in keeping with the piece. The stand out performance, for me, came from Susan Brodie whose portrayal of four very different, yet similar women, is well balanced and her delivery of her lines is excellent.
(Review by Karen Pond for London Theatre 1)

This production delivers ...
(Review by Chris Bearne for Remote Goat)

Handbagged Handbagged

Don't be fooled by the description of Handbagged as an amateur production - the Tower Theatre Company have done a fantastic job yet again on an enlightening, intelligent and, above all, thoroughly entertaining play.
(Theatre Things blog)

Just wanted to saw how much I enjoyed the play last night. I never expected such a kaleidoscope of characters and accents - or such an amusing, well-constructed play. The performances were superb and all involved should be hugely congratulated.
(Audience member A.S.)

Brontë Brontë

... the production, directed by Simona Hughes, is of the highest quality. The cast give compelling performances, in particular Joanna Nevin as the sensitive, publicity-shy Emily, and Tania Haq, who becomes more and more dishevelled as she brings to life two iconic characters - Cathy from Wuthering Heights and Bertha from Jane Eyre. The two male members of the cast also take on multiple roles with skill ... what's most impressive about the production, though, is the way it recreates the isolation of the Brontës' home on the moors ... we get a sense of the stifling atmosphere that led them to find their escape through writing.
(Theatre Things blog)

Hindle Wakes Hindle Wakes

Well directed by Ian Hoare, this is a faithful and delightful treatment of this frequently performed play. There were nowt wrong with t'cast, neither. (That Lancashire talk 'tis contagious, y'know.) I liked the subtlety and civility, even of their supposed rows. It could have been played with a lot more shouting than there was, but this rendering, stripped of overly raised voices, is more nuanced, refined and enjoyable.
(Chris Omaweng for London Theatre 1. Awarded 4 stars

The Return of the Marionettes The Return of the Marionettes

In London ...

This show has got serious legs on it and has the potential to run and run ... worth seeing for the soundtrack alone: the songs are killer and the band totally rock. The four "Marionettes", in both decades, are uniformly excellent ... this is an incredibly ambitious production for fringe theatre and it is enormous fun to watch.
(Cameron Dunham for Remote Goat) Awarded 5 stars

The Tower Theatre Company has a reputation for putting on really good shows and The Return of the Marionettes is definitely a great addition to their repertoire ... a spellbinding piece of theatre which really caught the spirit of both the sixties and the eighties in its story of the girl group that had it all then fell to pieces. Thoroughly enjoyable viewing.
(Terry Eastham for London Theatre 1. Awarded 4 stars

The Return of the Marionettes is a thoroughly enjoyable take on the familiar "rags to riches to ruin to redemption" story we've come to know and love from shows like Jersey Boys and Dreamgirls. With a soundtrack of irresistible songs, some strong vocal performances and a rousing finale, this is a show with great potential, which is pretty much guaranteed to send audiences out with a smile on their face and a skip in their step.
(Theatre Things blog)

In Cornwall ...

... they selected 16 great singers ... they all fit the bill wonderfully, having to belt it out for all they're worth against the big sound of a band that features Paul Sanders on sax, and looking the part, in costumier Lynda Twidale's Sixties and Eighties dresses.
This was a show that hit the right notes and pulled our strings as well.

(Review by Jenni Balow)

Great finale to The Return of the Marionettes, see it this week if you're in Cornwall.
(Audience member L.B.)

Really enjoyed @towertheatre production @minacktheatre tonight, would recommend to all
(Audience member T.T., on Twitter)

Romeo and Juliet Romeo and Juliet in Paris
We so enjoyed yesterday afternoon's performance - thank you to your wonderful troop of actors. Our group thoroughly enjoyed the event and we are already talking about next year when I think we will have a group at least twice the size :)
(Audience member J.C.)

Many thanks for the performance today, the students were very enthusiastic, they loved it ! I was quite relieved that it didn't rain !
(Audience member A-L de M.)

The Night Heron The Night Heron

What a superb evening that was! Fantastic, detailed, production, fabulous roles and Jez "Griffin, put that rabbit down!" Butterworth - what an absolute genius! If there were more days in the week I would consider going again.
(Audience Member A.F.)

That was absolutely spectacular! Stunning performances all round; I was completely engaged all the way through.
(Audience Member N.H.)

A Midsummer Night's Dream A Midsummer Night's Dream

At the Barbican we are treated to members of the Tower Theatre Company. And boy, do the Tower lot fill the Barbican stage! Not a hint of "amateur", thank you. John Chapman as Bottom is particularly brilliant and deserves much praise.
(Amy Smith for the Camden New Journal)

The highlight of the evening was the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe by the Tower Theatre Company actors, led by John Chapman as Bottom and directed by David Taylor. This play-within-a-play climax was achingly funny : people around me in the audience were squealing hysterically. It was one of the funniest things I've seen on stage for years. The amateur actors were clearly having a ball and were in total control of the situation. The final dance, involving the whole massive cast, was glorious and joyous - a life-affirming ending to a brilliant performance.
(Robin Simpson on the Cultural Dessert blog)

The Tower Theatre Company actors are very entertaining (particularly Peta Barker's bashful Snug) ...
(Brendan MacDonald for Exeunt Magazine)

The amateurs don't exactly upstage the professional actors. But they are the major point of interest and the RSC generously allows them to take centre stage in the curtain calls. Maria Waters as Quince and Adam Moulder as Flute, the bellows-mender who plays Thisbe are particularly funny.
(Robert Tanitch for Mature Timest)

The RSC have obviously hunted around for particularly strong groups of amateurs as the Mechanicals' scenes slot in very well with the rest of the show, and if it hadn't been advertised as such it wouldn't have been apparent that there was anything different about this particular part of the show (they even contribute to 2016's ongoing "playing the spoons" meme.) Pyramus and Thisbe reliably ends up being the show's highlight, the fact that the audience knows they really are amateurs lending huge waves of encouragement to the catastrophic play-within-a-play.
(Partially Obstructed View blog)

Led by John Chapman's brilliant Bottom - weaver by day, passionate, stage-hogging diva by night - their play within the play utterly steals the show.
(Rowena Hawkins for Plays To See) Awarded 4 stars

The Tower Theatre members were not only the equal of their professional colleagues but, in many cases, surpassed them. No one else on stage could equal the witty and touching performances of Adam Moulder as Flute, Tom Tillery as Starveling and, in a rare case of justified cross-gender casting, Maria Waters as Peter Quince.
(Michael Arditti for the Sunday Express) Awarded 4 stars

This is a play that is all about transformation, the greatest of all, of course, being that of the star of the play within the play. Bottom is played by John Chapman of the Tower Theatre Company and makes a fine vainglorious buffoon who wants to play every part in the play himself. He is wonderfully unsurprised to find himself the beloved idol of a fairy queen and is still bursting with swagger and self-importance when he becomes the star of the rude mechanicals' show, Pyramus and Thisbe. He has competition, though. Maria Waters as Quince directs this disorderly crew with a firm motherly hand and Adam Moulder as Flute makes a fine Thisbe. Snug (Peta Barker) was a comically timorous Lion and Al Freeman as Snout played the Wall with a particularly brilliant running joke that brought the rude into the mechanicals.
(Anna Selby for The Arbuturian) Awarded 5 stars

I have finally caught up with the RSC's touring A Midsummer Night's Dream ... at the Barbican, it worked beautifully with actors from London's prestigious Tower Theatre Company. John Chapman, a semi-retired education consultant, was a beaming, bumptious Bottom; Maria Waters, a full-time GP, was an authoritative Quince; and Peta Barker, a private-hire driver, roared memorably as Snug the joiner who gets to play the lion.
(Michael Billington for The Guardian blog)

The Tower Theatre amateurs playing the onstage amateurs are totally polished, finding all the warm humour in their scenes and integrating their style seamlessly with the RSC actors. John Chapman is as happy, believable and fully characterised a Bottom as I've ever seen, and while I've occasionally laughed harder at Pyramus and Thisbe, I can have no complaints about how much I laughed here.
(Gerald Berkowitz for Theatreguide.London) Awarded 5 stars

The most noteworthy feature of the production is that the mechanicals, who are the manual workers performing Pyramus and Thisbe as a play-within-the-play, are themselves amateur actors, and their scenes provoke a great deal of hilarity. It is also an ambitious project offering many non-professional actors the opportunity to perform with a leading company. The result of this experiment, far from being shaky, sees the amateur actors not only blend seamlessly in the play but almost steal the show at the end. This feat alone is worthy of note as it proves that there is plenty of room for inclusion in theatre and that it is indeed for everyone.
(Mersa Auda for The Upcoming) Awarded 3 stars

Charley's Aunt Charley's Aunt

.... entertaining the audience with some slick dialogue, much gratuitous rushing about, a lot of cod WTF? expressions (or whatever the late-Victorian equivalent was), all built around Sean McMullan's near perfect nut-job dowager drag-act. Wendy Perry's simple and clever set design, in an awkward space, enhances the farcical action and the Lighting Design by Alan Wilkinson is subtle and effective. Overall, Director Eddie Coleman squeezes every last scintilla of humour from his effervescent cast, doing full justice to Brandon Thomas's seminal classic of the genre.
(Peter Yates for London Theatre 1. Awarded 4 stars)

Frozen Frozen

Director Jacqui Marchant-Adams has put together a very slick, and at times, quite horrific production with a deceptively simple set by Michael Bettell that assist the storytelling without ever distracting from the actors and the action going on ... whoever you are, you will leave Frozen with a lot on your mind having seen a first rate production.
(Terry Eastham for London Theatre 1. Awarded 4 stars

Cooking with Elvis Cooking with Elvis

Last weekend I found myself in another version of am-dram land with the Tower Theatre's revival of Lee (Billy Elliot) Hall's Cooking with Elvis at Theatro Technis. I entered the slightly dilapidated premises as a stranger. Everyone in the foyer, and in the audience, knew each other. They were part of a club, a community of common purpose and dedication. They were releasing their inner thespians in a parallel universe of theatre. I overheard one punter telling another that he had been up until five o'clock that morning working on his design for the next production. The lady selling the tickets (£14 a throw, bit steep, I thought, but no ATG-style booking or restoration fee) collected the laminated passports to theatre-land from her front-of-house colleagues as she sat in the cavernous, oddly shaped interior. The audience numbered about eighty people.
And the performance was superb : better than good, less than tremendous, but still superb. And it's still shocking, sexy stuff, even fifteen years after comedian Frank Skinner bared his buttocks as the witless cake-maker who provides vigorous rumpy-pumpy for both the sex-starved wife of a quadriplegic former Elvis impersonator - who leaps out of his wheelchair to perform several items from the King's Las Vegas repertoire - and their borderline obese daughter.
There's also a pet tortoise, which is baked in a pie and served up for Stu's supper - a clear case of "Tortoise Andronicus" said Sheridan Morley first time round - and a series of physical encounters covering the waterfront: every possible genital engagement and a climactic deed of masturbation mercy.
Good Lord, I don't think such a scenario was in the minds of the venerable founders of the am-dram movement between the wars. But the audience gave the impression they expected nothing less; they evinced a spirit of what the Yorkshire novelist Phyllis Bentley said of her membership of the Halifax Thespians in 1948 : "a passport to a true comradeship in art."
And in the role of the obese daughter, Olivia Baker gave a performance so touching and true that you'd never stoop to describing her as an amateur; her programme credits list Ruth in Blithe Spirit and Catherine in A View from the Bridge, and she could have played either role, no problem, on the West End stage.
Are the demarcation lines between the amateur and professional theatres, as sussed by Boyd and now investigated by Erica Whyman in her RSC Dream, even more blurred than we imagine?

(Michael Coveney for What's On Stage).

... the four actors are all excellent with Sue Brodie as sex-crazed Mam and Brad Johnson as the manipulative Stu. However special praise must go to Olivia Baker as Jill who brings an edgy stillness to her part and also gets most of the laughs as she introduces each of the 20 plus scenes with a snappy one-liner.
(Alan Fitter for London Theatre 1). Awarded 3 stars

Could I ask you to pass on my thanks and congratulations to Emilia Teglia and the cast and crew of Cooking with Elvis for their hilarious and hugely enjoyable production of this well written play. It's the funniest thing (never mind play) I've seen for a while. The thought that someone who is a 'vegetable' can have a vivid internal life is a new one to me.
What a shame it can't run for longer so that more people can see it.

(Audience Member C.T.)