Read all the reviews of all our shows.
“Sarah Llewellyn’s haunting vocal score, sung by the cast at intervals throughout the narrative, gives the sense of powerful forces at work – love, revenge, and civil unrest – unstoppably driving events down a devastating path”.
“A beautiful, emotional and thoughtful production, this re-imagining brings the Charles Dickens classic comfortably into modern theatre.”
“….Across the board, the cast’s performances are impressive…..A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood far outstripped my expectations, both in its ability to create atmosphere and sustain thematic concerns.”
“Jonathan Holloway finds inventive ways to trim all the fat from Dickens’ meaty work and replace it with striking images, sounds, and atmosphere. The result is that the story’s core themes of revenge, passion and sacrifice shine through thrillingly. Voices echo from the back of the stage, haunting music (composed by Sarah Llewellyn) punctuates the action and subtly changing lighting takes us to dark places”
“The piece is beautifully underscored …. subtle and eloquent and is the perfect setting to the performance.”
“…Overlapping language links together like a constant song. Voices rest atop dramatic violins and dialogue builds up into a haunting refrain sung pitch perfect by the actors, in between scenes to indicate the passing of time.”
“The themes of grief, the stripping away of Dickensian theatricality, the political intrigue and the pertinence of damaged human relationships are all brought to the forefront”
“…..sounds of broken hearts resound in the amphitheatre. Music is also integral in this adaptation. Sarah Llewellyn, who is the Composer and Sound designer, has created a electric-acoustic score; ‘with distinctive music helping to illustrate the passing of time and the journeys within the play’. .. It is soft and captivating. The actors themselves performing the vocal chorus on the edges of the stage….This is an expertly devised adaptation …… It is refreshingly staged and emotionally gripping.”
“..Holloway is great at creating atmosphere – the most significant difference for me was the sound and musical appeal. The scene changes via singing chorus and the sound design (credit to Sarah Llewellyn) were absolutely mesmerising. Enhancing the ensemble energy, it was excellently paced and was an exercise in aural spaces, filling the theatre with ominous feeling and anticipation…..the captivating story that leaves you with a hauntingly bittersweet echo of romance and tragedy”
“The bar is set high from the off. The band – visible on stage throughout – adds a real sense of atmosphere to proceedings, whether it’s through folk song or old fashioned sound effects; and the company excel themselves, as the play transforms from a simple-seeming tale of village life to a vivid, fantastical dreamscape.”
“If you want a mix of gore and laughs, this is the show to see. It’s a very British tale of dark forces and dark deeds intertwined with music hall and a few good giggles. The musical numbers were performed beautifully, the harmonies were all spot on, and the gore was also really realistic. Without giving too much away, decapitating somebody live on stage is a pretty impressive feat.
All of the acting was brilliant, and the band were excellent at keeping the whole atmosphere of the piece constant throughout, some members even jumping up to be extra characters. The variety of accents was wide but accurate, and Claire Bryan’s portrayal of Desiree was beautifully executed and had me hanging off her every word.
It’s a great show to see for an evening of entertainment, but make sure you’re prepared to really go with it, because it takes you to places you will probably have never been before, and so is not completely to everyone’s taste. But, if you enjoy the taste of blood, it’s more than right for you.”
“This musical black comedy tells the story of a turn of an early 20th century music hall where the manager runs a secret trade in body-snatching.
Little known is that everyone in the company has their own agenda and an axe or two to grind, and the wealthy financier has his own dark and strange designs on the place.
It’s always a relief to see a performance that aims high and yet still remembers not to take itself too seriously. Mad World Theatre has transformed the main stage of Surgeon’s Hall into a whirligig of fun where the music comes thick and fast and there are moments of great slapstick humour as well as puns that vary from the sublime to the downright terrible.
The production, while not completely polished, was still leaps and bounds beyond a lot of the usual Fringe fare for new musicals.”
‘The Pool of Blood soon spreads into a gloriously preposterous melodrama. There are long-lost siblings, murderous plots against family members, illicit affairs, striking dockworkers and incriminating tattoos. The narrative is strung together with some great songs, with strong voices and some excellent harmonies. . . . this is a hell of a lot of fun, often recalling Tim Burton’s adaptation of the musical Sweeney Todd in its out-and-out celebration of all things dark and gory. And hey, if you were expecting a serious horror production, tag along anyway. You might just surprise yourself with how much you enjoy this deliciously dark, delectably violent melodrama’
“Something that really stood out for me was the musical attribution towards the show, as an aspiring song writer myself, I really found that the music helped explain the story and the voices of the actors/actresses were very strong throughout. In all, the play was a huge success with the audience and myself and should definitely be enjoyed by everyone who has the chance to see it, a huge achievement to the cast and people behind it, well done”
Chris Marshall, Edinburg Festival Guide, *****
“Live music always gives a show extra gravitas and at Giffords the band are not constrained to the background.
As the acts come and go the musicians retain a constant presence and claim their place in the front line of the entertainment. This eight piece out-fit took to the bandstand looking like they had just been refused entry to a Burlesque show for being overly bawdy. The six girls are sassy, sexy, exuberant and deliciously risque with the two males tempering proceedings by providing an air of suited respectability.
The score, put together by Sarah Llewellyn, has a raw sound that gives the show an edge and spontaneity which is lacking in productions that use recorded music. The genre sites somewhere between Spike Jones City Slickers and the Temperance Seven whilst the musical director, James Keay doubles as the shows compere in the style of the BBC’s the Good Old Days’ Leonard Sachs.”
“Best of all, for me, was the band. Everyone seemed to play at least three instruments, and sing, and dance (and tightrope walk, and ride horses…) It was lovely to see loopy Nancy playing the French horn, and the French tightrope walker tucking into the trombone, while the usherettes also pulled out violins on occasion.”
Brilliant music performed by the comical and very talented house band kept the up-tempo pace of the show running throughout. Everything combined beautifully to provide one of the most entertaining family shows I have seen in years.
“…The musical arrangements, costumes, and choreography have reached the peak of perfection…”
Kendra – Gardenista.com
“The band, saucily clad in suspenders and bustiers (the females I hasten to add!) really add to the live and spontaneous enjoyment factor – superb music with a hint of burlesque!”
“…The musical score was a highlight of the entire show, perfectly crafted by composer and musical director Sarah Llewellyn to suit each individual act.”
‘It makes for a fantastically volatile production, which leaves one glued to the actors’ eyes, desperate for clues as to who will turn, and in what direction, next’.
**** Miriam Gillinson, Time Out – full review
‘The well-spoken production moves swiftly onward revealing its characters’ Byzantine scheming, scenes sometimes separated by Sarah Lewellyn’s cacophonous music and sound that stridently sustain its momentum’
**** Howard Loxton, The British Theatre Guide – Full review
‘Sian Thomas‘ Agrippina is fabulously venomous and deceitful, her commanding posture saying it all.
Matthew Needham‘s Nero is similarly gripping – vicious and childlike all in one, his psyche impossible to penetrate.’
**** Miriam Zendle, Whats On Stage – Full review
‘Once shunned by the British theatre, Racine is edging back into fashion. It is well worth the detour to London’s East End to catch Irina Brown’s modern-dress revival of this austere 1669 masterpiece. . .’
****Michael Billington, Guardian – Full review
‘a total delight’
Ismene Brown, The Arts Desk
‘. . .theres real storytelling here, and the kind of attention to detail that drapes the tent with giant scrawled excerpts from the book and gives a real Russian twist to Sarah Llewellyns fine music played by the live band . . . Brilliant.’
Libby Purves, The Times
‘. . .Snatches of folk music from a distant band float past on an early summer breeze . . a tiny colourful and thoroughly unusual troupe . . .’
Patricia Carswell, The Telegraph, May 2011
‘. . .the unique charm that is Giffords, plenty of circus skills threaded along the narrative of a pared down version of the Russian classic. Full of drama, rousing music and some inspired clowning from Tweedy the Clown. . .’
The Hay-festival, May 2011, Hereford Times
‘I love the music, it’s a massive highlight for me: the mood shifts, rhythm and brass are extraordinary, melodies beautiful and this year’s devil’s stomp makes my hairs stand on end’.
Peter Browning, audience member
‘Superbly inventive and beautifully adapted piece that grips the audience in a vice and refuses to let them escape’
Edinburgh Guide, Lindsay Corr ****
‘The bells toll in Sarah Llewellyn’s creeping, sensual score’
Metro Review Nadine Mcba ****
‘The Fall of Man is full of beautifully detailed observations. A brooding intensity is prevalent throughout this tale of infidelity and lust’
The Scotsman, Sally Stott ****
‘A bed, three simple lights and Sarah Llewellyn’s insistent soundscape, the production creates an intense intimacy that implicates its audience; you feel slightly soiled watching it’
The Guardian, Lyn Gardner ***
‘ The whole show is sewn together with a score which was deliciously jazzy and performed by a stupendous band of players and singers. The music was beautiful, playful and pulled you into the magic of the show. We couldn’t help dancing in our seats and it is worth noting you can buy the soundtrack.’
Kat, Bambino Goodies
‘ Pulling everything together there’s live music from the twelve-piece band—several of whom step into the ring for a duelling banjos stand-off or the odd bit of game transvestism . . . .its very fabric, honours all the best qualities of the circus world. I’ll go back next year’
Side Show Circus Magazine
‘One of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen and the music was the best thing about it’
Alex James from Blur
“…the creativity and passion poured into this production it is at first bewildering. Inside, the tiny white tent is gorgeously decorated, Lindsay Pughs exquisite outfits would make any Hollywood film costumier weep, and while most UK touring circuses have abandoned live music, Giffords has an exceptional 12-piece ensemble. Yasmine – a Musical has a fun, concert party feel – with the artists at times sporting glorious animal heads – and some thrilling acts . . . Giffords has created a dream of a show, which would be even more jewel-like after dark. ‘
Liz Arratoon, The Stage
‘The music itself ranges from modern rock and pop played on a radio through to the haunting compositions of composer Sarah Llewellyn, hummed, sung and played live by the multi-talented cast, as well as used as background to the action. In a stroke of genius the well-known ‘Sigh no more, ladies’ traditionally sung by Balthasar is turned by Hero into a modern club anthem, focusing on a chorus of ‘Hey nonny, nonny’ and including the whole cast in a line-dance. The best version of this song that I’ve ever heard, it is worthy of any current song-and-dance pop-group and would surely hit the heights if released as a single.’
Wendy Attwell for the Shakespeare Revue Oct 19th ’07
“This stripped back performance under the superb direction of Natasha Pryce allows the stories- the words – to literally speak for themselves…The all female, multi-cultural cast are vulnerable, raw and exposed in their sensitive handling of the subject matter. Avoiding the temptation to completely breakdown on stage, they portray the strength, courage and solidarity of these women who often didn’t even know each other’s names.”
Rachel Sheridan, British Theatre Guide
Click here for full review for the British theatre guide
‘…Beautifully evocative music from composer Sarah Llewellyn draws us
into the tragedy and keeps us there without tugging overly hard on the
heart strings . . Yvonne’s (Pinar Ogun) slow death, pride and humanity
are portrayed so poignantly, it’s almost too much to bear . .
Ruth O’Reilly, Remote Goat – Read the full review
**** “I cannot remember many works that serve as such vivid testimony to
the horrors of Auschwitz…As significant as the testimony, performed here
in Natasha Pryce’s courageous production by a committed, 15-strong
all-female cast, is that Delbo was a non-Jew whose account destroys
revisionist notions of the Holocaust as a Jewish lie. Delbo’s word should
John Nathan, The Jewish Chronicle
. . this piece progresses at a pretty unrelenting pace in keeping with the strength of the writing. The staging makes the best use of the tight space and the stark set from Alistair Turner provides a suitably bleak environment, which is reflected in the lighting design of Paul Bull. The combination results in disturbing, stripped down scenes, where we are left without the protection or distraction of props or complicated scene changes. Some comfort is afforded by musical accompaniments composed by Sarah Llewellyn, but these can equally contribute to the darker atmosphere’.
Review by Sandra Giorgetti (2008) for The British Theatre Guide
“Sarah Llewellyn’s folk music adds a lovely, credible sound layer”
Caroline McGinn, Time Out London
“This was a fantastic event. The material was strong and characterful and the performances were excellent.”
Diana Burrell, Composer, Artistic Director for Spitalfields Festival
“I thoroughly enjoyed watching, hearing and experiencing Tonal’s performance. The mood of the evening was both moving and amusing. Fresh, lively music with some very haunting moments entertained and captivated the audience. It is great to see young artists having such determination to do something relevant, refreshing and interesting”
Jonathan Moore, Director/Producer
“Dark choral harmonies merge with gloriously malevolent, toe-tapping tunes in this blood-curdling rock opera cabaret.”
Gaynor Wright, Creative Education Manager, Liverpool Culture Company