Anne-Marie Piazza

Trained at The Bristol Old Theatre School


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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)

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The Road Behind, The Road Ahead

10th-12th October 2018

Chipping Theatre

The Road Behind, The Road Ahead is a unique project created by The Theatre Chipping Norton to explore the history of the Suffragette movement, and what it means to us today. In the age of #metoo and gender pay disputes, female equality remains one of the most hotly debated questions of our day.

Join us for an evening of rarely-seen drama from the Votes for Women movement – a stripped back production of short plays and songs that helped to shape public opinion and remain relevant, gripping and funny to this day.

The live performances are partnered with a thought-provoking photographic exhibition and originally commissioned pieces of sound-art and music that reflect on the experiences of equality from a range of contemporary women from across Oxfordshire. From teenagers to retirees, students to professionals, children to working mums, join us to reflect on how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Thursday 11th at the Old Fire Station, Oxford there was a post show Q&A, attending were:

Professor Senia Paseta. Senia is Co-Director of Women in the Humanities at Oxford University whose current area of research is the history of women and political activism in the Britain.

Dr Naomi Paxton. Naomi is a performer, writer and researcher whose doctoral research explored the world of theatre professionals to the suffrage campaign. She edited the Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays. Naomi is Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

Dr Sos Eltis is an Associate Professor in the English Faculty, Oxford University, and a Fellow and Tutor in English at Brasenose College, Oxford. She has written a number of articles on women’s suffrage literature and theatre, as well as articles on Shaw, Coward, Pinter, Beckett, gothic and sensation literature.


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The Wits: Read Not Dead

Sunday 30th September saw the rehearsed reading of the 17th century play The Wits by William Davenant at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe. It was first performed 1634 and published 1636 and had a rocky start. Initially, because of its oaths and explicit language, Sir Henry Herbert (Master of the Revels) was incredibly unhappy about it and it took the intercession of King Charles I for it to be allowed.

Thankfully, due to the work of our wonderful cast expertly directed by Read Not Dead regular Martin Hodgson, our Sunday afternoon audience also loved it.

The Read Not Dead rules are as follows: Actors rehearse the play on a Sunday morning and present it, script in hand, to an audience later that afternoon.

The performances are instinctive, adrenaline driven and inventive. Actors and audiences alike share in the excitement of reviving these forgotten plays that definitely deserve to be Read Not Dead.

Synopsis: Eager to live like fashionable gallants, Elder Pallatine and Sir Morgalay Thwack plan to woo London women and fleece them of their wealth. Elder Pallatine meets his match when his younger brother joins forces with Lady Ample and set about tricking him with ridiculous/hilarious consequences.

Supposedly Lady Ample represents a restoration feminine ideal, that of a woman who is equal to man in every way. In fact her parting shot, when she suggests marriage to the Elder Pallatine, is that he will agree that she has far more wit than he does. I found her an utter joy to play and would only have wished for a proper run to really sink my teeth into the character.

Read Not Dead’s are a wonderful opportunity to bring back rarely seen plays and throw them onto stage with energy, very little preparation but a lot of joy. And this was no exception.


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Scandal Above Stairs review

A lovely review from AudioFile for my reading of Jennifer Ashley’s murder mystery “Scandal Above Stairs”, the sequel to “Death Below Stairs” for which the same publication awarded me the Golden Earphone Award.

Narrator Anne-Marie Piazza transports listeners to Mrs. Holloway’s kitchen in a mansion in the rich district of Mayfair, London, 1881. There we follow Mrs. Holloway’s employment as head cook, along with her adventures with the enigmatic Daniel McAdam and the adventurous Lady Cynthia as they hunt down thieves and a murderer. Piazza deftly shifts among the various accents of the working and upper classes, which convey much about their individual characters and about the people of Victorian England in general. In addition, Piazza cleverly uses pacing to add to the drama, making this audiobook an enjoyable listen. V.M.G. © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2018]


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Love’s Victory Up Next

After almost half the year spent working on devised musical “Day of the Living” for the RSC I will be returning to my classical theatre joy by performing in a premier of a 400 year old play. Yes I know. It’s 400 years old, is the earliest surviving comedy written by a woman and yet, to my knowledge, there is only one complete copy of the play text and it lives at the writer’s home Penshurst Place.  And the writer herself? Lady Mary Wroth, a contemporary of Shakespeare and character in her own right.

Actors from the Urania Theatre Company will rehearse in the house and grounds from Wednesday, August 29 to Friday, September 14, with director Martin Hodgson and the public can go along.

Two ticketed performances will be held on Sunday, September 16 at 2pm and 7.30pm in the medieval Baron’s Hall, which will also be professionally filmed and put online on the Shakespeare and His Sisters website, hosted by Lancaster University.

More to follow…


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Day of the Living Review

*** Harder-hitting and electrifyingly inventive, Day of the Living is a kind of musical fiesta created by the composer-lyricist Darren Clark, the director Amy Draper and the writer Juliet Gilkes Romero. Under twinkling fairy lights and garlands it mixes Mexican mythology and tradition with a tragic family drama and verbatim testimony from students who survived the atrocity.

The results are nightmarishly vivid: there are uncanny, wide-eyed masks and grinning, Day of the Dead skulls; a severed head tumbles out of a piñata. The songs are either heartbreaking laments or jaunty ditties whose sunniness is a queasy counterpoint to violent, pitch-black lyrics. It’s a wild party in hell, as highly coloured as a cartoon, but deeply serious in intent, radiating anger, defiance and, ultimately, hope. Fiercely effective. (The Times)

There’s no time to relax as Day of the Living threatens to blow minds and break hearts with its gob-smacking blend of Mexican folklore, Day of the Dead imagery, song and dance used to tell the unbearably tragic story…  Day of the Living is a devised piece put together by writer Juliet Gilkes Romero, composer and lyricist Darren Clark and director Amy Draper with a crazily talented cast that includes Mexican actors Alvaro Flores and Jimena Larraguivel, alongside Jamie Cameron, Tania Mathurin, Eilon Morris and Anne-Marie Piazza.

It’s a musical, and it kicks off in fiesta spirit, with the audience invited to holler, whoop and take part…The music is in turns beguiling, funny and deeply poignant: opener A Short History of Mexico is a hilarious clever romp, while Song of the Turtles — sang beautifully by Piazza — is possibly the most haunting song my ears have ever heard.

Day of the Living is like a magical collage, it is a wonderful jumble of colours, sounds and emotions. The songs are augmented by a soundscape full of the voices of the students and crackly newsflashes, while a masked drama forms the emotional heart of the story… and it is a truly extraordinary way of charting the ongoing suffering of the families of the disappeared. (Stratford Herald)

There is real passion behind the group of actor-musicians who tell this story, and their words really do resonate. Although there are some moments of obscurity, the narrative is heart-wrenchingly clear. It is a really interesting piece of theatre that highlights a real issue in a theatrically engaging way.

Through a combination of vibrant music and bright colour, the juxtaposition between the spirit of Mexico and the fear and pain their people feel is portrayed through this piece written by Juliet Gilkes Romeo… The movement and characterisation of the actors wearing masks is remarkable, as it heightens the emotion of their struggle. With the mother and grandfather clinging onto his memories, lost in the unknowing. Stinging with grief, their scenes are beautifully crafted to show what these Mexican families are having to deal with.

Both #WeAreArrested and Day Of The Living are desperately essential, hard-hitting stories told in an informative and gripping way. (SincerelyAmy.com)

***** This is a story belonging to a community and shared heart and soul by a brilliant ensemble of six actors who each play multiple roles, play multiple instruments and add their voices to the music and lyrics created by Darren Clark. The musical numbers are what really hold this production together. In the few moments when the story becomes less clear, the mood created by the music and the stirring emotional power of the cast’s strong vocals carried the audience past any confusion.

The RSC’s Mischief Festival has created theatre that feels profoundly necessary. These are stories that should be on our nation’s stages. I cannot recommend these two productions strongly enough. Why isn’t theatre always this provoking? Leave the ‘safe and special place’ where you are comfortable and go to The Other Place and let yourself be challenged. (the730review.co.uk)

In a whirlwind of song, Mexican folklore, wrestling matches and masks, a company of actor-musicians recounts the unsolved case of the “forced disappearance” of 43 Mexican students in 2014. Its flurry of colour, spirit and celebratory verve at first belies, but gradually reveals, the obscenities of the cartel-related crimes it describes. And coming on the very day that the Mexican government announces its reopening of the investigation into the case, the cast’s planting of 43 pinwheels, spinning fast in the wind, becomes a beacon of hope and a testament to endurance against injustice. (The Stage)

Day of the Living… is more like a savage, satirical, musical review of the entire history of Mexico, a “scrapyard of the dead”.  There are wrestlers and a bull-fight, mime, actors in masks with the action described in voice-overs. It’s as if the chaos is the country.  Dragging in everyone from ancient gods to narco kings, Toltecs, conquistadors, priests and politicians between, the central story is easily lost in a torrent of ideas and images.

But when the smoke clears, there are visions of horror—a jolly song about a severed head with fingers in its mouth, or a description of a tortured student too graphic to repeat.Tania Mathurin and Alvaro Flores lead the ensemble numbers with style and vigour. So resilience is evident here too, but I left the theatre with a profound sense of unease about events in countries at the book-ends of Western democracy. (British Theatre Guide)

It fights via fiesta… using Mexican music and carnival spirit to tell the sombre story of 43 students ‘disappeared’ by a pack of unmarked, government gunmen….Detached voices recount the students’ experiences of the affray – the issue being we can only guess what they went through – while a masked dumbshow follows a family refusing to give up on a disappeared son….Clark’s songs have spirit – one trills about severed heads in the street, “not normal, but not not normal” (WhatsOnStage)

The six-person ensemble (Jamie Cameron, Alvaro Flores, Jimena Larraguivel, Eilon Morris, Anne-Marie Piazza and Tania Mathurin) do their best…shifting uneasily between black humour, desperate sorrow and righteous anger. It takes enormous skill to find comedy within such a tragedy….The music, dancing, mime, masks and audience participation offer plenty of energy.  (Guardian)

Day of the Living blends testimony, mythology, overwrought mask-work and pointed musical performance from its company of six in a style which the publicity material calls “anarchic” but might equally be called a bit of a mess. (Financial Times)