Anne-Marie Piazza

Actor / Writer / Musician

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Reviews for Brief Encounter

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Both characters are toned down in manner and appearance. Except when her dazzling smile lights up the auditorium, Piazza is the acme of respectability. (Musical Theatre Review)

★ ★ ★ ★ Piazza and Ashmore bring an agony to their performances, a recognition that outside the liminal space of the railway station, their union is doomed. Seeing them both slowly realise this and fight against it is delicious. It is almost cruel how easy and joyful the other relationships in the play are compared to theirs. (The Stage)

The relationship is beautifully portrayed by Anne-Marie Piazza as Laura and Pete Ashmore as Alec- from the fantastical aspects of their love to the harsh realities of their affair. And, as is so often the case there is no reason why the two become attracted to each other, is it to escape the humdrum of their own lives. There is almost a dream like quality when the two central characters act out their love affair reflecting the fact it is just a fantasy. (The Bolton News)

As the central characters, Pete Ashmore and Anne-Marie Piazza are note-perfect, their clipped delivery avoiding pastiche. They achieve a heart-rending chemistry when the rest of the cast serenade them to the strains of Go Slow Johnny at the close of the first act. (Great British Life)

Laura (Anne-Marie Piazza) is measured, sensible, settled in her domesticity with a caring husband, two children and a weekly bit of ‘me-time’ which involves shopping and a trip to the cinema. It’s a routine that she knows well, and the departure from it is in slow, reluctant steps and polite, hesitantly guarded words, escalating into lies as the passion, deceptions and guilt intensifies, all quietly spoken in an unwavering RP accent. Piazza is controlled throughout and gives a superb performance with just enough increase in pace to make the emotions she feels real without losing the propriety of societal mores.  (On Yorkshire Magazine)

Anne-Marie Piazza and Pete Ashmore on the other hand play the lovers dead straight draining every drop of agonised emotion from the roles but even so, from time to time, they stagger as sound effects drench them in a wave of passion….Piazza and Ashmore create pressure-cooker intensity – Laura sets out the reasons the affair must end and although Alec agrees he cannot stop touching her. (The Review Hub)

Anne-Marie Piazza takes us on the most honest and human emotional journey.  Whether you identify with her situation or not becomes irrelevant as her strength lies in her ability to draw you in to such a wide range of emotions to which we all can identify, from feeling trapped to exhilarated, love and passion to despair and hopelessness, anger to joy and promise to loss.  Piazza must be completely drained after performing because she leaves everything on the stage with her generous performance and will leave you reaching for your sleeve when you realise you’ve used up all your tissues. (Manchester Review)


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The Loss of Live Performance

Saturday August 15th, I sat in a multi-storey carpark in Peckham.

Sounds bleak doesn’t it. There wasn’t a car in sight and, instead, around 50 or 60 plastic chairs were arranged in ones and twos, circling two Steinway grand pianos. We came in also in one and twos, down from the rooftop entrance through the torrential rain, and, after navigating the one way system, took our seats.  The setting was minimal, even the Steinways were bare with their lids removed, but that didn’t matter. That was almost the point.

All venues have been closed since 23rd March and the arts industry is getting desperate. In a bid to satisfy the ache for it, companies are getting creative, finding areas that can provide open-air spaces to allow for social distancing. This would be one of the first live, in real life, not-over-the-internet performances since lockdown, 5 months on. I was quite literally on the edge of my plastic seat and, looking around me, I could tell I wasn’t the only one. There was electricity in the air and that wasn’t just the storm raging around the multiplex.

The stage set for Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy

The two musicians arrived, colourfully dressed and, as they sat at their respective Steinways, we all held our breath. I’m sure the pianists could feel it, the anticipation, the weight of expectation and charge in the air. They opened their scores, locked eyes, raised their hands and, as one, brought their fingers to meet the keys. In that moment a car park full of strangers was set ablaze. In that moment a car park full of strangers connected. 

That is why we go to the theatre, concerts, stand-up, sports stadiums: for connection. Why we spend time and money to attend events live and in person instead of just sitting and watching from the comfort of our homes. Connection. It has been a rationed commodity these last 5 months and any culture we have experienced we have done so remotely.  Perhaps you watched NT Live or archive footage released by worldwide venues.  Maybe you joined performers as they live streamed gigs with exciting new content (and wow didn’t we need it). It filled the time, brought new stories into our living rooms and went some of the way to fill the gap. But everything we watched we did so at arm’s length and with highly sanitised hands.  It just hasn’t been quite the same. Has it. Something has been missing.

Watching theatre/gigs through a screen is passive, it demands nothing of us except that we plug them in when the battery runs low. The screen doesn’t even care if we look at it: streamed TV will happily keep running through a box set whether you’re in the room or not.  I, like the philistine I am, watched Gillian Anderson’s heart-breaking Blanche DuBois whilst doing something totally irrelevant on my laptop. Why? Because when it got too hard, too raw and too painful I could just look away and press pause. I know. What a coward! But we can get away with that at home. Not at the theatre though, woe betide the person who shouts “Alexa, stop” at the National. No, we can’t avoid the messy, painful, sticky emotions live performance makes us feel as we’re sandwiched between other members of the crowd. And, here’s the kicker: we don’t want to. It is the reason we go out to the theatre/concert hall/stadium in the first place: to experience all those emotions fresh, in the moment and with others.

Live performance allows us to live vicariously through other humans as they experience the really big, painful, joyful, life changing emotions that we don’t or can’t face in the day to day.  When we are, to borrow from the musical “Hamilton”, ‘in the room where it happens’ that experience is heightened by its immediacy, intimacy and shared nature.  Theatre shows us love that can raze cities to the ground; comedy’s sharp humour holds a mirror up to the world as we see ourselves reflected; we are even prepared to stand in a stadium and watch our favourite teams lose for that unique collective experience.  We show up because they do and, though there might be a script to follow or an order of play, no one really knows what is about to happen: no two events are ever the same. The performers come with new inspiration, a new audience brings in a new energy and, when the two meet: electricity.

I love that electricity, it’s why I became a professional artist. That two-way connection between performer and audience builds a symbiotic relationship and each party feeds off the other. A collective connection also exists in the crowd. Research by the UCL Division of Psychological and Language Sciences discovered a unique synchronicity that develops between the audience members. This link sees a group of strangers united as their heart beat responds in unison to what they are seeing and their pulse rises and falls at the same rate. As the performers connect to the audience they connect to each other and, as Dr Brené Brown discusses in “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk, human beings are hardwired for connectivity. Shakespeare’s fruit throwing groundlings knew it, the Ancient Romans in their amphitheatres knew it, even the Caveman who painted on walls knew it. And with the closure of the theatres, concert halls, stadiums, all venues where people can meet as a community, now we all know it.

I have felt it very keenly these last few months. Full disclosure, I am an actor, musician and writer and from March 16th I watched as one contract after another evaporated.  When I was originally approached to write for you, dear reader, it was to talk about my career and journey through the industry. And, at the time, I was just finishing an incredible show in Cardiff. I had the privilege of working with two astounding actresses on a piece for the Wales Millennium Centre that interlaced music with visual, sign and spoken language. “The Beauty Parade” told of the ordinary women of World War II who were recruited, trained as spies and parachuted into occupied France, most of whom only survived 6 weeks. With such a powerful piece as a backdrop, you can imagine I was only too happy to tell you about what had led me to that stage. Now I sit down to write, it feels hollow to do so without acknowledging the massive pandemic sized elephant in the room stopping me from being on that stage.

“The Beauty Parade” Photo: Jorge Lizalde

So I started this piece at someone else’s gig, but the first ray of hope that live performance might be opening up again. And I started by talking about connection because oh my word, haven’t we learned a lot about that recently- our essential need for it and what happens when we are deprived of it. My love of theatre started in Judy Seall’s drama classes at Dolphin and my love of music, listening to my mother play piano as I fell asleep at night.  Now I look back at it and sat with Pandemic The Elephant, I understand how these two mediums brought me a distinctive kind of connection. They are methods of storytelling and, if human beings are hard wired for connection, then storytelling, a fact Mr Caveman will attest to, is our favourite format. And the way I tell stories is through live theatre and music. And it turns out I like making work that no one has made before.

Art can take you out of or hold a mirror up to yourself. Its beauty is in its potential to be uncompromising and dangerous. In theatre, that connection allows us to bend and distort the audience experience. One of the first productions I was involved in to do this was “These Trees Are Made of Blood,” about the dictatorship in Argentina and the Dirty War of the 70s. Not an easy topic on the face of it but Amy Draper, Paul Jenkins and Darren Clark’s show welcomed its audiences in with humour, song and sleight of hand before pulling the rug from underneath them. The connection was visceral. From the laughter and the tears, to the angry shouts of outraged audience members and the incredible post show conversations. It is a priviledge and a responsbility to take an audience on this journey because, and it’s a bold claim but I’ll make it, noone ever comes out of theatre the same as when they went in.   I have never shied away from these types of  stories. In fact, more and more, I seek them out. 

Company of “These Trees Are Made of Blood” Photo : Darren Bell

In tacking this kind of subject matter you can’t do so with kid gloves, it has to be head-on and wholehearted. You have a duty of care when telling the stories of real people: a duty to honour their lives and celebrate their humanity. But that duty extends to all manners of storytelling too, since you have a responsibly to the audience. You are there to show life in all its glorious technicolour, the flaws and failures, the successes and triumphs. As a performer the connection with audience is always key because it demands the best from you. You are asking them to sit through 1hr+ of storytelling so you are going to have to give them something worthwhile. They can smell inauthenticity so every time you step out in front of a crowd the stakes are high as you are pushed to be the best version of ‘you’ that you can be. I have grown so much as a human as a result of the glorious people I have worked with and the audiences that have forced me to be better and do better. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, it is with that, that I return to my plastic chair in a multiplex, with the sound of trains pulling out of Peckham Rye station and cars driving through the downpour. I’d not heard Messiaen’s “Visions de L’Amen” before and it came at me like a clash of cinematic soundscapes and utter chaos. I’m not likely to seek it out again if I’m honest but that doesn’t change the fact that the experience was next to religious. As the chords vibrated through the concrete floor up the legs of my probably-borrowed-from-a-school-plastic chair, I took my first deep and relaxed breath of 5 months. For 45 minutes the incredible Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy, held us suspended above the strings of their Steinways as we were reminded what it felt like to be connected. When, at last, the final dying notes echoed away around the breeze block pillars, I smiled having had a taste of how life was before the pandemic and could be again.

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Thundercats for 8 Cellos

When Lockdown hit, I disappeared into a world of self made projects, buying a mic and sound set up, watching all the industry output there was and just…stuff. Aka denial. But something positive did come out of that denial in the form of an excellent investment: my new Rode NT-1, Foucsrite audio interface and Pro Tools DAW. If you’d asked me in March what all that meant I’d have stared at you blankly. But now I could say it is my brand new, shiny means of communicating with the outside world and getting my job done.

So with that started a series of video output and music. I’ve been revisiting favourite songs and exploring the theme tunes from my youth and created some adaptations for your delectation. So here is the first one:

Thundercats for 8 Cellos

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Prince & the Pauper Reviews


A six-strong cast of actor-musicians so versatile that they easily populate designer Katie Lias’ streets of an “olden-time” London town. Their storytelling is totally compelling from the get-go under Abigail Pickard Price’s tight, sparky direction.

Odimba also skilfully skirts the question of the King’s six wives, including only the scheming figure of Anne-Marie Piazza’s full-blooded Lady Whatsit as a self-proclaimed “almost queen”, bent on becoming the power behind the throne of the young prince whose coronation she thinks she is orchestrating. (WhatsOnStage)

For pure comedy value, Anne Marie’s gold digging Lady Whatsit is a triumph. I wish we had seen more of her. Like a historical footballer’s wife, she had that ‘gagging for it’ greed about her that really tickled me.

Once again, The Watermill has pulled off an super-creative family show – perfect for culture vultures and anyone who wants to dial down the cheese. The cast is small, but ridiculously talented. They act, sing, dance and play instruments. All of them!  (MuddyStilettos)


Anne-Marie Piazza plays a variety of characters including Lady Whatsit and the Father who teaches Tom to read and play guitar. This is lovely Christmas outing for the family with a powerful message for the kids but delivered in a charming production which takes liberties with the original story to make it appeal to the young audiences. A real treat for all the Berkshire schools. (Pocket Size Theatre)

The six-strong actor-musicians are impressive multi-talented performers who play a wide variety of instruments, double up on characters with ease and have a great rapport with the audience.

The ambitious Lady Whatsit (Anne-Marie Piazza) is determined to become Queen but is thwarted…Tarek Merchant’s music captures the mood and period perfectly and Katie Lias’s inventive London set has lots of surprises. (British Theatre Guide)

An endearing ensemble of six bring a lyrical verve to this adaptation, once again showing the Watermill Theatre to be one of the finest venues for singer-performer-led shows. Anne-Marie Piazza is an amusing presence…. stealing most of her scenes…These six bring an energy to the intimate theatre space they’re in, and the strongest moments of this production are when it cuts loose, relying on its talented cast… I can’t fault a slick, skilful production that plays to the intimate venue’s strengths. (Daily Info)

The multi-talented cast play numerous characters, sing and play their own instruments…effortlessly moved between script and song with ease, as well as a variety of different characters. The story is carried along by the music, which is almost continuously present throughout….they perfectly enhance the storytelling and intertwine with the acting: some gentle melodies and others upbeat, lively numbers. (Basingstoke Gazette)

The six-strong actor/musicians are impressive multi-talented performers who play a wide variety of instruments and double-up on characters with ease and have a great rapport with the audience.

The ambitious Lady Whatsit (Anne-Marie Piazza) is determined to become Queen and is thwarted when the ailing King dies, but hopes that Prince Edward will give her a position within court..(Newbury Today)

Anne-Marie Piazza’s performance as Lady Whatsit was also a highlight, putting over her songs so well that the audience wanted to burst into spontaneous applause — only prevented from doing so by the action being pushed along to another scene. (Henley Standard)

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Winter at the Watermill

The Watermill Theatre’s Christmas show, The Prince and The Pauper is a lively new adaptation by Chinonyerem Odimba of Mark Twain’s classic story of confused identities with music and lyrics by Tarek Merchant.

Featuring a multi-talented cast of actor-musicians, The Prince and The Pauper is directed by The Watermill’s Associate Director Abigail Pickard Price. The show is designed by Katie Lias, with lighting design by Tom White and sound design by Philip Matejtschuk. The Prince and The Pauper is suitable for ages 4+.

The full cast is David Fallon (The Prince), Stacey Ghent (Bette), Loren O’Dair (Nan), Anne-Marie Piazza (Lady Whatsit), Tendai Rinomhota (The Pauper) and Hayden Wood (Father Canty/The King).

Two young dreamers with very different lives long for change. The Prince is bored of royal life, of endless parties and rules and grown-ups. Most of all, he hates the grown-ups and wishes he had friends his own age to play with. Outside the palace walls in the bustling streets of London, a young girl who loves to play music and dance, dreams of escaping her humble life to perform for the finest people in the city.

When their two worlds collide, the Prince and the Pauper embark on a thrilling adventure beyond their wildest imaginations. Switching places to live each other’s lives, will they ever be the same again?

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New Audiobooks Out Now

The next audiobook in the Jennifer Asheley’s series is out, following the exploits of cook and amateur sleuth Kat Holloway investigating a “Death in Kew Gardens”.


Here’s what they say about the story “In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift – a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered.

Known about London as an Old China Hand, the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.”

“You, Me and Everything” written by Helen J. Rolfe and recently recorded for Dreamscape: “Have you ever had to make an impossible choice?Lydia and Theo face the unthinkable when a knock at the door changes everything. As Lydia begins to pick up the pieces, not every part of the puzzle fits together as neatly as it did before, and as she discovers the truth about the man she loves, she finds herself stuck in limbo. When Theo finally wakes up from a coma, Lydia is faced with a heartbreaking dilemma. She has a history with him, the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with, but has too much happened to be able to forgive and forget?”





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Audiobook Review

What a joy to find a review for an audiobook I recorded in 2011 and to find it won an Earphone Award with AudioFile Magazine (making me a double Golden Earphone Award winning narrator.

These seven ghost stories were written specially for Naxos AudioBooks, and the production is first-class. Excellent writing and perfect narration are a common thread among the tales of historical ghosts, an accident-prone ghost, and spirits from ancient Egypt. Sean Barrett offers a perfectly tuned narration of “The Clumsy Ghost.” Gorgeous classical music adds to the atmosphere and presentation. In “Unable To Connect,” Anne-Marie Piazza portrays a girl whose dying mother tries to reach her on a phone with a ringtone from SWAN LAKE. The music adds to the heartbreak. Each casting is sublime, all dialogue is smooth and clear, and the narrators are memorable. The stories, which also touch on bravery and lost opportunity, are ideal for family listening.




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Swallows and Amazons – York Theatre Royal

Photographs: Anthony Robling


The York Theatre Royal’s take on this well-known story, directed by Damian Cruden and John R Wilkinson, is packed with charm. Adults playing children – so often an occasion for cringing – is pulled off by a uniformly excellent cast. Their travels take them all over Katie Sykes’s flexible set, which conjures both the magnificence of the landscape and the intensity of the children’s imaginations.

But the real highlight is the soundtrack, composed by the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. Played on stage by the actors, the music is full of complex harmonies and playful rhymes, with lyrics that trigger snorts of laughter from the audience. In one particularly memorable example, “duckling takes to water” is startlingly paired with “mindless slaughter”.

(The Guardian)


So much is charming about this stage version that to pick holes in it feels like being a spoilsport… the songs, by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, are liltingly lovely, the lyrics spiked with his trademark tart wit. And this production, co-directed by Damian Cruden, York’s departing artistic director, and John R Wilkinson, shimmers with innocent wonderment and the happy holiday glow of long childhood summers.

The performances, though, are winning, with Khogali wistful and vigorous as Titty and Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond as the bloodthirsty piratical sisters making a hugely entertaining and robustly earthy contrast to the more decorously behaved Walkers. You can’t help wishing there were rather more to it, but it’s as warm, sweet and soothing as a bedtime cup of cocoa.
(The Times)


There’s something endearingly old-fashioned about this tale of children playing at being pirates. Yet Edmundson’s version still manages to feel contemporary, helped no end by a typically witty and winsome score by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

A cast of adult actors play the children’s roles in a production that is, first and foremost, a celebration of childhood and the power of imagination.

It’s Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond who prove most popular with the young audience as the “Amazon pirates”, complete with one of Hannon’s catchiest songs as their theme tune.

(The Stage)

Performed by Cruden and Wilkinson’s company of nine actor-musicians on myriad instruments, from euphonium to violin to cello and glockenspiel, under Kieran Buckeridge’s typically joyous musical direction from the keyboards, the mellifluous songs are but one pleasure of this summer holiday drama for children and grown-up children alike.

The Amazons, sisters Nancy and Peggy (Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond), are punkish northerners, free spirited, rougher, tougher and funny. The contrast works a treat; all excel, not least when improvising sailing boats.

(York Press)

 The show aims to take you back to your summer holidays, and provides lots of enchanting music too!

The musical expertise of the company is outstanding… Anne-Marie Piazza (Nancy, Captain of the Amazon) is much loud and brash, with a wonderful singing voice to match! The musical skill is to be not only enjoyed, but admired also.

Furthermore, it is the musical instruments which dominate the stage and its design.

The musical aspects are certainly the highpoint of the production, and it’s no surprise that the songs were composed by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.


John R Wilkinson and musical director Kieran Buckeridge refer to gig theatre and concept albums in their programme notes—and they’re by no means overselling this aspect of the show. Neil Hannon’s compositions, in Buckeridge’s fine arrangements, underpin the whole evening, performed with immense flair by the whole cast on a bewildering array of instruments.

The resulting songs are intricate and compelling, with counterpoint, harmony and syncopated rhythms constantly offering surprising and delightful twists.

…The cast members all have beautiful, versatile voices which soar through some very demanding arrangements.

….The Amazons, played by Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond, at times threaten to steal the show entirely. As the pseudo-enemies of the piece, they certainly get the best songs: they revel in hyperbolic and bloodthirstily comic couplets such as “We’ll cut out your gizzards with a blunt pair of scissors for starters / Use your skull as a cup and your lily-livered guts for garters”.

…Overall there is so much to love about the performances, the staging and the gorgeous music that it is well worth a visit, for imaginative explorers young and old.

(British Theatre Guide)

The incredibly skilled cast of actor-musicians is completed by Anne-Marie Piazza as Nancy, Rachel Hammond as Peggy, Ellen Chivers as Mother and Ed Thorpe as Mr Jackson and Policeman, not to mention Buckeridge himself as the ostensibly intimidating Uncle Jim (better known as Captain Flint)….Piazza and Hammond provide riotous laughter as the bloodthirsty Amazons,

(Arts York)

Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s novel Swallows & Amazons comes to the stage of York Theatre Royal this summer. Five of the cast – Anne-Marie Piazza, Alex Winfield, Ellen Chivers, Kiernan Buckeridge, William Pennington and Laura Soper – answer questions about sailing, adventurous holidays and what their character is really like (York Times)


A taste of adventure, childhood innocence and endless days spent

The cast of nine, played instruments, sang and of course acted. The Amazon Pirates, who are the Swallows arch enemy, at least at the start, are two sisters, Nancy (Anne-Marie Piazza) and Peggy (Rachel Hammond). Both do a great job of creating their persona as ruthless ‘pirates’. These two provided the audience with a lot of the comic element within their roles.

The whole cast were strong and each actor made sure the performance went smoothly as possible. The interaction between all the cast is wonderful, and the six who played the children were 100% believable.… I could not find fault in any of the actors, they all delivered splendidly, with such talent.

… I loved how the cast played instruments, sung and acted too, it kept things lively and made sure the children in the audience didn’t get too bored. The show also used a few bird puppets, with the cast stepping in to control the birds at different times.

(Fairy Powered Productions)

The Amazons, Nancy and Peggy, are more straightforward. They make their first raucous appearance, clambering from the Dress Circle in full fig as pirates, and from then on Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond have a great time roistering around in fine panto style.

There are many incidental delights in Swallows and Amazons, not least the puppets of birds, but the outstanding feature of the production is the quality of the music. Neil Hannon’s songs are cleverly varied, sometimes witty, sometimes memorable, but always smartly integrated into the dialogue.

(The Review Hub)


Performed by a supremely talented ensemble, who are also the house band and skilled puppeteers, the intimate staging means the audience also feels part of their gang and had they handed us one of their catapults we’d have probably taken on Captain Flint ourselves.

(Yorkshire Post)

What an absolute delight York Theatre Royal’s summer show, Swallows and Amazons was, an action-packed adventure, and a fitting farewell to Artistic Director Damien Cruden who co-directed this, his last production with John R Wilkinson, after being at the helm for 22 years.

The children (all played most convincingly by adults) took us with them on their adventures all over designer Katie Sykes’ beautifully spacious set, which created a mood that captured the memory of childhood holidays, and a heady sense of freedom.

The playfulness of the bobbing boats, and the naughty bird puppets was a joy to experience, as was the enthusiasm of the children, particularly young Roger (William Pennington) whose character you couldn’t help but take to your heart.

Music Director Kieran Buckeridge, along with his crew, ensured that this quality production was like “a wonderful live gig“ demonstrating actor-musicianship at its very best, and no doubt inspiring young audience members to take up an instrument.

The swash-buckling scene involving Swallows and Amazons and amongst other things, a hilarious cushion fight, was a real highlight, summing up the sense of playfulness created throughout the whole show.

A delightfully imaginative, uplifting production, perfect for a family treat in the summer holidays

(Pocklington Post)

Much to my disappointment (but not surprise), their favourite song comes from the ballsy and brilliant Amazons warning the Swallows that they will chop off a leg ‘without any anaesthetic!’. Feisty pirates indeed, and the perfect contrast to the rather more sensible Swallows. When quizzed, our children all confirmed that they would much rather be Amazons than Swallows. No surprise there.

… Our nine-year-old said he would have liked more pirate action – by which he probably means fighting – but he was full of praise for the actors and particularly enjoyed the more exuberant second half. But it was our seven-year-old who left the theatre buzzing with excitement, declaring ‘it was amazing’ to anyone who asked. Delightful, funny and thoroughly enjoyable, it’s a show that truly appeals to the whole family. Climb aboard!

(Little Vikings)

Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy fame composed the music and from the very first scene, it’s clear that the story will be told not only through the acting skills of the fine cast, but also through song and their musicianship. There is at least one musician on stage at all times, often several more, with all of the cast demonstrating an array of fine talents on any number of instruments.

..This is very much an interactive play, with the cast entertaining the children beforehand and popping up at various points in and around the audience, and looks set to win over the hearts and minds of a whole new generation over the next few weeks in York.

(On Magazine)

The soundtrack though, which is nothing short of wonderful, only complements the sheer talent and energy of the actor-musicians carrying out his, Cruden and co-director John R. Wilkinson’s vision for the show. The tracks are playful, fun and rather than detract from the show, really add value to the performance. A few recent York Theatre productions have felt musically forced, rather Swallows and Amazons thrives under it’s musical direction.

The nine actor-musicians are flawless across a range of instruments and musical styles;

I loved this rendition of a classic tale; whilst the story and the script hasn’t been updated to reflect the modern day, it was actually rather nice to have that escape to the past and into a traditional theatre-scape for a couple of hours. The closeness and the intimate nature of the staging enforced this further and you really do feel a part of the children’s adventure throughout.

(Halfway 2 Nowhere)

The cast play the children beautifully, with wide-eyed innocence yet without the need for stereotypes and silliness. The direction from Damian Cruden and John R. Wilkinson shines here.

Anne-Marie Piazza and Rachel Hammond as Peggy play the great comedy duo Nancy and Peggy, drawing plenty of giggles from the audience with their bolshy fall-outs.

The play is a delightful one, though the music composed by Neil Hannon could do without so many reprises.

(One Play More)

There was a powerful use of instruments throughout. The music added to the performance and was blended perfectly. The casts ability to include the instruments was spellbinding to watch.

The use of space in the theatre was phenomenal. The stage and beyond was used throughout which captivated my ten year old and me! These times when the actors came off of the stage often unexpectedly were our favourite parts.

We loved the Amazon sisters, Nancy and Peggy. They were strong and determined northern sisters not afraid to fight for what they believe in.

(Unicorn Puffs and Rainbows)

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Wind in the Willows Reviews

Wind in the Willows at the New Vic Theatre, Stoke

The show opened on 17 November 2018 and ran until 26 January 2019.

wind willows


An immersive show for the under-fives strikes gold and acts as a primer for Peter Leslie Wild’s inventive and boisterous main stage production… a show in perpetual motion. As economical in its theatrical means as it is inventive, it finds deft ways of expressing complex pieces of business.  For one of the great highlights of the show is Matt Baker’s score, gorgeously sung and played by an impassioned ensemble. Varying from ravishing a cappella harmonies to New Orleans jazz, the music takes on early 20th-century forms such as barbershop and tango, even carrying a suggestion of the Russian revolution when the woodland creatures seize Toad Hall with strident cymbal crashes and urgent accordion beats. In a show that is whimsical but not twee, it adds to the rich communal spirit.

 (The Guardian)

The cast of accomplished actor-musicians begins with a haunting acapella song that rouses Alicia McKenzie’s anxious and naive mole from slumber. This is engaging and innocent family fare, performed with aplomb. (The Stage)

It’s gentle, charming and whimsical, a perfect festive outing for people of all ages…heart-warming affirmation of the value of friendship that runs throughout. As you would expect from a New Vic production, the cast all multitasked. The music was another high point for me. It fit perfectly with the period of the book and added to the timeless quality of the show.  Anyone of any age could enjoy Wind in the Willows. There’s absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as going to see it.   (Stoke Sentinel)

There are seven others in the cast who play lots of other parts – I think the quick-change dressers should take a bow – and everyone sings or plays a musical instrument.

(Northern Soul)

The New Vic brings to life a timeless tale, creating a magical experience for audiences of all ages…  And the beauty, as ever, in any New Vic production is that the theatre-in-the-round setting brings the audience up-close to the action.  This is a tale of courage and friendship, with a dose of danger, too (which children and adults alike can revel in).  Plus, in between their lines, the cast took their shifts playing musical instruments (an impressive display of multi-tasking, in our opinion). The original score, composed by Matt Baker, is a delight and fits perfectly with the story. (Yeah Lifestyle)

Grahame’s characters are so beautifully drawn, casting them is key; and in this the New Vic has thrown away the clichéd form book. This production determinedly avoids the anthropomorphic trap. The actors act like humans, with only a carefully managed tail to remind us otherwise.  Matt Baker’s music is exquisite throughout. Instruments seem to pop up everywhere … playing a repertoire ranging from a gentle soft shoe shuffle (ideal for messing about on the river) to a big Weasely Kurt Weil-style number. But it always steadfastly references the story’s Edwardian roots.  (Shropshire Events & Whats On Guide)

A tale of friendship, strength and determination, acast of 11 actor-musicians take us from the river bank to the Wild Wood.  The amazing thing about the production is, despite the fact that you have to use your imagination, it really feels like you’re watching Mr Toad storming through the streets of the Wide World in his motorcar. All 11 of the actor-musicians give impressive performances, switching between singing, dancing and playing instruments, they create an atmosphere that is hard to forget. (Staffs Live)

The Wind in the Willows brings enchantment, adorable characters in mysterious settings and a sprinkling of snow for a delightful Christmas play at the New Vic. Imaginations are allowed to run wild.. A fabulous story, superb stage setting and fantastic cast – who between them also perform live music – makes Wind in the Willows a must see at the New Vic.  (Baba Baboon) 


Within moments you enter the magical world.  The direction was also on point, using the set and cast to full effect. Unbelievable stagecraft always accompanies a New Vic Production and it was great to see Director Peter Leslie Wild continue that trend whilst adding stamping his mark in other ways…and there wasn’t a weak link in this group of actor-musicians. It’s always impressive when the actors produce their own music, but even more so when it doesn’t affect the flow of the performance or take energy away from the main action on stage.  (At The Theatre)


 Time and effort has been devoted to creating just the right atmosphere and “look” for each scene and it pays off. The characters are resplendent in their Edwardian costumes, set off by some pretty fabulous tails and ears, designed by Lis Evans. The cast are suitably bonkers.  The staging has a relaxed feel to it, with characters often sitting just off stage, watching the action with us. It is especially inventive the way the musicians stroll on and off stage, often becoming animals themselves. I have never seen a fox play the saxophone, but there is always a first — especially when you are visiting the Wild Wood. (TheTimes)