DMH Cinderella Press Launch


What a fun afternoon!

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Press Launch for this year’s DeMontfort Hall Pantomime, Cinderella.

Once again Imagine Theatre are heading up the Christmas entertainment for families of all ages at Leicester’s premier concert venue.

Judging by the mayhem during the photo shoot this year’s cast are going to have a hoot.

My first sit down chat was with just-signed Madison Swann fresh from appearing in Tony Blair The Musical and a 2.5 year run in The Book of Mormon in London’s West End. Madison is playing the Fairy Godmother in her very first pantomime. She has done stints in Disneyland Paris as a performer so working with a raucous audience of children doesn’t scare her. Also her experience working as a nanny will stand her in good stead. She is just grateful that she can give them back to their parents after the show!

Next on my list was New Zealand comic Jarred Christmas returning for a second year as Buttons. Well known to UK audiences for his stand-up tours and appearances on TV panel shows, Christmas is a big, cuddly bundle of laughs and was hilariously disruptive in this afternoon’s photo shoot. After last year’s subdued panto due to Covid Jarred is looking forward to abandoning the social distancing that was necessary. While the main characters of Cinderella and The Fairy Godmother are essential for pushing the story along Jarred revels in the freedom that the comedy characters have to just have a laugh. We have to watch out for his gusset issues. Last year he split his trousers on opening night and, so far, that wardrobe malfunction occurred on the photoshoot. But that may not be the end of it for this year!

This year’s star turns, for many, will be the dance duo brothers AJ and Curtis Pritchard. Following on from the success of their appearance in Imagine Theatre’s Cinderella last year in Wolverhampton the boys are again playing Prince Charming and Dandini to Evie Pickerill’s Cinders. A perfect fit for this couple of jokers who spend so much time ribbing each other. AJ as the Prince is small but perfectly formed while Curtis is much more like a big old Labrador and quite the practical joker. Their onstage high jinks promise to be hilarious.

And as if that is not enough from the boys fans will have the opportunity to get tickets for An Evening with … on Friday 30th December or for Meet’n’Greets on Tuesday 20th, Friday 23rd and Tuesday 27th December. These extra tickets are only available to book when buying regular show tickets. Check the website for details.

Saving the best til last I sat down for a chat with the panto legend that is Martin Ballard. Giving us his Dame Penny in his 31st year in panto, Martin is hoping that last year’s leg injury will not reoccur and he can do every performance again. Up until recently Martin was a stalwart of BBC Radio Leicester but, having been offered redundancy, he has been able to take on a lot more interesting freelance work. But Radio Leicester hasn’t seen the last of him. He keeps popping up with various shows. We soon got onto chatting about how much he missed last year’s Sleeping Beauty and how important he thinks pantomime is for introducing youngsters to the magic of theatre. He is also passionate about it being a great training ground for young wannabe actors to gain theatrical experience.

The booking office is open for tickets to see Cinderella which runs from 10th December to 2nd January. Don’t forget tickets for the extra events with AJ and Curtis are only available to main show ticketholders and must be booked in advance.

Linus Karp interview

I had a very lovely interview with the talented Mr Linus Karp, writer, producer and actor in a comedic parody of the movie Cats, How to Live a Jellicle Life, currently touring the country (

First up I wanted to know what exactly was a ‘jellicle life’.

In the film it is never actually specified but jellicle cats can do everything, they can fly through the air, somersault, bounce, anything positive and that is what the show is about, being funny and positive. Come along for jellicle laughs, jellicle ‘dance’ (sort of) and jellicle PowerPoint (yes, really)

So who is the show aimed at?

Originally it was thought it would appeal to a younger audience who would appreciate memes and cultural references. But it seems lots of older people love it as well. I wrote the show on the basis that it would be something I wanted to see. It turns out a lot of people do as well.

Do we need to have seen the film? Are you advocating masochism?

LOL No you don’t need to have seen the film although if you have it is even better. Either way you will get life lessons from the 2019 film.

I saw the film for the first time last week and, I have to say, it is nowhere near as bad as some people say.

It is one of those films that you either love or hate for some reason. It was a critical flop but is rapidly becoming a cult movie.

Have your parents seen the show?

Not live but they watched  an early streamed version. They live in Sweden so getting over to visit is problematic at the moment. They are hoping to get over for the end of the tour (11 March in London so far).

Which leads me on to the next question. Why are you streaming it?

It is exactly for those who can’t get to a live version for whatever reason. There are still a lot of people who don’t feel safe going into a crowded venue or are isolating. This gives them a chance to see the show and have a good laugh

Why is your production company called Awkward Productions?

First up I love the word awkward. It is a funny word and sums me up. I am awkward but, like being different, being awkward is something to embrace. Being a foreigner in a foreign country (Linus is Swedish) adds to that. (But his accent does give a delicious diction to the way he talks and seeing awkward on stage can be very funny.) It all comes back to being Jellicle, being positive.

Is it true you can buy a Jellicle Hoodie?

Yes. We first made a few as a promotional thing and a company picked up on the idea and they are on sale now in a variety of colours (

If you were to be turned into a cat for the day what would you want your super power to be? A) Being able to fall from a great height safely or B) Being able to lick your own bum?

LOL I think I would have to go with option A

And a final question. As the Guardian has picked up on, are there too many penis jokes?

Can there ever be too many penis jokes? Actually I don’t think there are that many penis jokes in the show. But you will have to come along and see for yourself.

I certainly will.

How To Live A Jellicle Life is like catnip. Irresistable.


How To Live A Jellicle Life is touring nationwide and spends two nights at Upstairs at The Globe in Leicester on 16/17th February 2022 as part of The Leicester Comedy Festival. Limited tickets available at



Curve 2020 Season Launch


It is always exciting to attend Curve’s season launch because as well as all the shows we already know from the catalogue there are always surprises from Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford, the artistic powerhouses behind Curve. It is also an opportunity to  learn about the more fringe activities that happen in this flagship building. More and more Curve is forging co-producing relationships with other regional theatres which results in some incredibly interesting projects finding their way onto Leicester’s premier theatre’s stages.
I have already written in The Western Park Gazette about some of the upcoming productions but tonight we saw a whole lot more juicy titbits coming up.
For the third time a new production of Hairspray is returning to Curve this year. The big news of the night was that a European premiere of Roman Holiday is kicking off at Curve this summer. Also big news is that the new version of Sister Act starring Brenda Edwards drops in in April before heading off back to the West End. 
Of course Curve has a reputation for hosting all sorts of festivals. Leicester Comedy Festival is the big one for February with the always popular Spark Festival, new productions especially aimed at toddlers running in the same month. DMU Pride, now firmly established at Curve, takes us into March with LGB themed productions. Curve continues its avowed intent to nurture new talent with a season of productions by the Curve Young Theatre group from March to May. Of especial interest is a production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directed by Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Anthony Almeida this summer.
Not only is the schedule bustling with home grown productions but Leicester gets to see all sorts of mainstream touring shows like Once, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Phantom of the Opera.
Details of all of these productions plus loads more can be found on the website

Winter 2020 theatre

Winter in Leicester’s theatre-land is always about the Leicester Comedy Festival which runs throughout February (5th – 23rd roughly). However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t loads of other events for those looking for some relief from the awful weather.
As out biggest theatre Curve has a wide range of productions to keep us entertained. Highlights include 20-25 January The Woman in Black. This atmospheric ghost story is making a welcome return. The really big news is that the first ever national tour of the iconic musical Phantom of The Opera is kicking of at Curve and runs from 22nd Feb to 21st March. Back for a 3rd year is DMU Pride, a schedule of gay themed productions including The MP, Aunty Mandy and Me by the award winning playwright and actor Rob Ward following on from last year’s successful tour of Gypsy Queen. Another production I am really looking forward to is CYC’s Cry Baby, the musical version oof the iconic film starring Johnny Depp. Just edging into April we welcome another touring version of an Alan Bennett, this time The Habit of Art (6-11 April). Full details at
Leicester’s prestigious concert hall venue has its usual mix of  one nighters throughout January before bounding headlong into February for Leicester Comedy Festival with the launch night on 10th January and then a host of top line comics from 5th to 22nd February. February ends with a feast of shows from 27th to 29th from the Russian State Ballet of Siberia. March heralds the arrival of the touring version of David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy from 4th to 8th March. The month continues with the usual blend of singers, comedians and tribute acts. Full details at
Along with their usual eclectic mix of singers and personal appearances The Y makes its own important contribution to the success of Leicester Comedy Festival with a full schedule of comedy gigs from 5th to 23rd February with yet more top line comedians. Full details at

DMU Pride & Gypsy Queen interview

DeMontfort University have held a DMU Pride event to celebrate LGBT History Month since 2015. This encompasses all sorts of supportive events within the university as well as cultural events at Curve and Phoenix Cinema.
This year Curve is hosting five events throughout February, four theatrical performances and one dance workshop. One of the shows on is a very welcome return of Gypsy Queen after its sold out show last year.
I spoke to Rob Ward, writer and actor in Gypsy Queen and asked him if he deliberately booked the show in for DMU Pride or did they approach him?
“We actually worked with them last year” he said “and we were approached to do the show last year for their Pride events in one of the cute rehearsal rooms at Curve and we sold out. So when we were approached for this year I got on to Curve, spoke to Nikolai Foster and they came and saw the show and this time we are booked in the Studio.”
I mentioned that DMU were probably quite unique in spreading their LGBT awareness outside of the university
“Yeah, they have fostered such a good relationship with Curve that they can have this mini LGBT festival”
Then we moved on to Gypsy Queen. I wanted to know why Rob, as the author, wanted to set it within the travelling community.
“I already had a small play about two gay boxers and I was looking to extend it to a more full length show, a studio tour. The problem was I couldn’t find an angle to extend the story. Then about three years ago there was the whole incident with Tyson Fury and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award when he made a series of homophobic, sexist and generally awful comments around the time he had won the World Heavyweight title. There was an almighty uproar because he was shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality award despite these remarks having been made public. This was a big issue for me because sport doesn’t have role models for the LGBT community. It doesn’t have openly LGBT sports people for fans like me. I don’t feel like I belong in that world. So when the whole Tyson Fury thing came out I wondered just why he felt he had to say these things about gay people. What was his personal interest in all this? Then it crossed my mind what if he was gay himself? What if it was that classic defence mechanism? Maybe it is a case of those with most to hide shout loudest, and in that moment I thought what if one of  these boxers is from the Traveller community. Suddenly you are bringing in not only a world of sport but also a community in which it is also very difficult to be gay but also the whole catholic debate and it gives the story a few more layers. You have two men, one from the world of professional sport and one from traveller community meeting and falling in love and suddenly the story burst into life.
“On this tour we have had a cast change, we have gone back to the original actor, Ryan Clayton [known for Josh Tucker in Coronation Street] now that he is available. He created the role of the sexually confident but closeted boxer, Dane,  while I played the repressed gay traveller, George.”
Gypsy Queen is on at Curve on Monday 25th February. Tickets are available from the Curve website.
The other productions for DMU Pride at Curve are Rubber Ring on Monday 18th February, the story of a 16 year old isolated on the Norfolk coast who runs away to London to see his hero Morrissey. On Wednesday 20th February there is Drip, a one man musical comedy about a 15 year old synchronised swimmer who can’t swim. 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
First published on Western Gazette

Cast of The Frontline

Interview with cast members of The Frontline at Curve

I met up with two of the cast of The Frontline, one of Curve’s Inside Out Festival productions. Med Jannah and Amelia Eatough snuck out of the technical rehearsal in the Studio to fill me in on the production
I started by asking Amelia about her characters “I play two different characters and they are both completely different. One is called Val who has completely lost control of her son and is at the end of her tether, absolutely distraught at life, about her son about what he is turning into, who she’s become and very upset about the things she has done in her past. Then Casey is completely opposite. She’s a stripper but very grounded in her life, she is looking to the future and is dating one of the of the characters”
Med plays just one character, Miruts, “a drug dealer who is very proud of his Ethiopian heritage. Although he does it in a way that puts him at odds with the people around him. So he can be quite confrontational but there is a lot more to him than appears on the surface.”
I wanted to find out how they both got involved with the Curve’s new local actor training programme, supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Med: “I’m part of the Leicester University Theatre Society and an email came through about Curve doing a project with people you wouldn’t normally see in theatres, give us experience and courses we can go through this year and eventually be able to showcase our talents with what we have learned in Curve. When you get an opportunity like that you can’t turn it down. So I auditioned and made it through.”
Amelia: “I finished uni last year, doing a performance degree and am now doing a day job and working on this course in my spare time. I want to be a professional actor.”
Amelia spotted that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a supporter of  the programme and was immediately interested. Med only found out at the audition and realised this was a much bigger deal than he thought. While this production is not a musical, as such, there is singing in it. Hence the Lord’s involvement.
The original production had music by Arthur Darvill but this production has got a whole new soundtrack by local friends of Curve, Sheep Soup.
Amelia: “They have come in and made it completely their own, changed it up which was a wonderful opportunity to work with and learn about a visiting company”
Med: “We have got to see a show being built up around us”
I wanted to know where this experience would lead. Hopefully.
Amelia: “I came into the course hoping it would open doors, I would get to meet people. The play, The Frontline, is the culmination of the end of a year course”
Med: “Over the course we have been looking at classical theatre as well as modern theatre; stage movement and stage combat; musical theatre, singing.”
Amelia: “We get free tickets for shows and work with loads of different practitioners, all different styles, age ranges and experiences. We’ve worked with media teams. Some of the people on the course have never actually done a show before.”
So will they be just cast adrift at the end of their year with Curve?
Amelia: “We are being sent off with professional actors as mentors and I am jumping straight into White Christmas (Curve’s festive offering this year) which came directly from being on this course and come the new year I am trying to get more professional credits. Which is where my mentor will come into their own guiding and advising me. On the Press Night we will be given a list of people who can help us, agents etc who will be in attendance”
Talking to these youngsters it is obvious that once again Curve has created a unique climate for young talent to be nurtured and supported as ongoing actors.

Robert Cohen

Robert Cohen is a writer/actor/producer of both his own work and other author’s theatre and film scripts. ‘Something rotten’ is his acclaimed. self-penned examination of Hamlet’s much maligned uncle/step father, Claudius.
An experienced Shakespearean actor, Cohen has always been intrigued by the missing links within the Bard’s telling of The Prince of Denmark’s story. To this end he has attempted to fill in the gaps, sort of a literary pothole filler!
‘Something Rotten’, coming to Upstairs at The Western on Friday March 2nd, is Cohen’s attempt at righting history, a paraquel running alongside Hamlet’s story and attempting to answer questions such as how long had Claudius craved his brother’s crown? How long had he and Gertrude been at it? How did he get on with his nephew prior to the upheavals? And most importantly, how did Yorick become the most famous corpse in literary history? All this and more will be answered. Sort of.
Written in ‘modern English’ with just a flavour of Shakespearean verse, this is hopefully more accessible to non aficionados like myself.
Cohen’s previous visits to Leicester have been with High Vis and The Trials of Henry Matusow, both sold out shows and both going on to tour extensively.
Tickets are available on
Full details of his previous and current work are on