Chiswick Book Festival Writers Party – Part Two!

Nick Hennegan was at the 14th Chiswick Book Festival, at the local author’s party, where the writers have 2 minutes against the clock to talk about their books – or get ‘horned’ off! Nick recorded it for his Resonance 104.4 FM weekly radio show – ‘Literary London’ This is Part Two of Three!

Winners of ‘The Stage’ Debut Awards 2022.

Winners announced in online event.

Jodie Comer.

The winners of The Stage Debut Awards 2022 have been announced in a ceremony on Sunday 18 September, live streamed via Facebook. The ceremony featured performances from Samuel Thomas (The Last Five Years) and Shan Ako (Hamilton), Frances Mayli-McCann (Bonnie & Clyde) and Natalie Paris (Six the Musical), and was hosted by BAFTA Award-winning actor Susan Wokoma.

Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Thirteen, Doctor Foster) more than deservedly received the Best West End Debut Performer award for her blistering performance in Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre. The entire ensemble of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy have received the award for Best Performer in a Play, the first time the award has ever been presented collectively to a group of performers. Mark Akintimehin, Emmanuel Akwafo, Nnabiko Ejimofor, Darragh Hand, Aruna Jalloh and Kaine Lawrence were honoured for their moving performances at the New Diorama Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre, alongside Elisabeth Gunawan for Unforgettable Girl at Voila! Europe Theatre Festival. Elijah Ferreira took home the Best Performer in a Musical award for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Leeds Playhouse. Best Director was awarded to Monique Touko for Malindadzimu at the Hampstead Theatre.

Further debut work honoured at this year’s awards included Best Writer to Tyrell Williams for Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre and TK Hay’s, Best Designer win for the set and costume for An Adventure at the Octagon Theatre Bolton, John Patrick Elliott took home the Best Composer, Lyricist or Book Writer award for Cruise The Play at the Duchess Theatre, and the Best Creative West End Debut award went to Julia Cheng for her choreography for Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre.

Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage, said: “Congratulations to all our winners. Looking at this extraordinary array of emerging artists – and a couple of more established names – we can all be confident that the future of theatre in the UK is in incredibly exciting hands. I cannot wait to see what all these supremely talented theatremakers do next.”

Congratulations to all of the winners! I saw Jodie in the NT Live production of Prima Facie and she was going to be hard to beat! I know writer Suzie Miller a bit. And as a male, I’m still somewhat rocked by the piece. There will be a review when I’ve processed it. And maybe a chat with Suzie .

But in the meantime, well done to The Stage for… er… staging… the Debut Awards event! The arts need all the help they can get at the minute!

At the Chiswick LocaL Writer’s Party – Part One


Nick Hennegan was at the 14th Chiswick Book Festival, at the local authors party, where the writers have 2 minutes against the clock to talk about their books – or get ‘horned’ off!

Also at — Send in a voice message:

The Terrific Tabard Theatre’s Superb Shavian Show!

Rating: 🍷🍷🍷🍷 and one pint of Porter, 🍷

4 (5) out of 5. Glasses of Champagne and one pint of Porter, 🍷 obs!

Francesca Ottley as Elisza Doolittle

Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw.

Theatre at The Tabard, Bath Road, Chiswick, London W4

It’s been a couple of years since the copyright on Shaw’s plays ended and most people will have seen ‘My Fair Lady’, but the newly reopened Tabard Theatre have pulled off a coup by bringing the touring company DOT Productions into town with their refreshing reboot of Shaw’s play. Hence the alliteration in this headline. It’s exciting!

Now, to be honest, having worked in professional theatre for years, I’ve never actually heard of this company, but based on this showing, I shall keep an eye out for them. They perform mainly in outdoor venues – and it’s a bit obvious with their vocal projection in a tiny studio theatre like the Tabard, but I’m being picky!

I’ve also been reminded about how good George Bernard Shaw is – was – as a playwright. This production is more true to the original and focuses on Higgins’ story. In his own way he’s a complete monster, yet we can’t finally help but sympathise with him. Shaw was a master at realising – a bit like George Orwell perhaps – that social comment can be far more powerful if it entertains.

The company has had to reduce an 8-hander down to 5 actors, which is not too much of a problem for me, having reduced the 32 characters of Shakespeare’s Henry V down to just one!

And they do it so very well. Director Pete Gallagher hits a nuanced tone – he focuses on the key conflicts and ensures a brisk tempo throughout. And all the actors are outstanding. Francesca Ottley as Eliza Doolittle is mesmerising and completely nails both pre and post ‘treatment’ Eliza. Christopher Walthorne as Henry Higgins is the genius who becomes a little boy and never misses an emotional beat. Andrew Lindfield as Colonel Pickering grows into his kindliness and Cassandra Hodges plays all the dominating women – Mother and housekeeper – with deft, certainty and incredible definition.

Jack Matthews’ performances as an aristocrat and then the cockney dustman Eliza’s Dad stay just the right side of pastiche, even though his stuck-on sideboards are beautifully ridiculous. But it doesn’t matter here. It adds to the fun! The production is beautifully balanced.

Shaw based his play on the classical tale of Pygmalion – a sculptor and King who hated women, but then sculpted a woman and then fell in love with her.

Get to the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick for this Pygmalion. You’ll fall joyfully in love too.

Back to Stratford-upon-Avon. Baby!


After the Edinburgh Festival Fringe finishes, Nick Hennegan revisits his old haunts in Stratford-on-Avon near the Royal Shakespeare Company, where his theatre ventures first began – back in the 1990’s! . #rsc — Send in a voice message:

Pubs at Risk? Ask ‘The Choir of Man’..!

The Choir of Man in their onstage pub ‘The Jungle’!

I first saw the singing lads in their fictitious on-stage pub The Jungle, a few years ago – I think it was one of their first performances – at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

It’s one of the few benefits of being a Fringe performer. As long as you have your performers pass, if there are any unsold seats at ANY of the other productions hosted by your venue, you can get in for free

I’d produced versions of the plays Road, Strippers and Shakers and I’d had an idea for a new production – a sort of girls club – with songs – set in a specific place, maybe a pub. So when I saw The Choir of Man I was both delighted and disappointed! But watch this space!

And the sentiment here is entirely true. There are a number of brilliant pubs that are having their leases snapped up by (Greedy?) property developers who know that they will turn a much quicker profit by turning pubs into luxury flats. And I know of at least two brilliant, busy pubs in Birmingham that have been forced to close because developers have built luxury flats either next to, or opposite them. The pubs have then had to close due to complaints of noise by the new flat dwellers!

And I think since the pandemic, we’ve all come to realise the value of pubs. Of being able to be together again. Traditionally for the working-class (which is great for me as I AM traditionally working-class! THAT’S why I’m in the pub so much. Honest!) there are few places like a pub. For meeting and greeting. Occasionally talking with strangers. All types of people are at a single destination for a million myriad reasons. It’s really not all about the alcohol. There was a brilliant piece in a Birmingham Irish newspaper about ‘The Irish Govt is concerned at the lack of old fellas in pubs! There’s a shortage of old Gray-haired men, sitting at the end of the bar, supping a single pint for hours and dishing out unwanted advice to anyone who passes by!’ I’ll try and find it again.

But the reality is that even without the current crises we’ve all gone through recently, according to Altus, 400 pubs in England and Wales closed last year and some 200 shut in the first half of 2022 as inflation started to eat into their profits.

And Bohemians have always been attracted to pubs. Places to talk, discuss, disagree and fall in and out of love. The French House, Norman’s Coach and Horses, Gerry’s in Soho. The Newmans Arms, Fitzroy Tavern and The Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia. Brilliant pubs with a great Literary history (it’s why I wrote the London Literary Pub Crawl by the way.) Recently in Edinburgh, I was able to see the brilliant author Ian Rankin in the equally brilliant Oxford Pub – review to follow soon. And I write a lot in pubs. Usually, The Raven in Hammersmith, but also The Cross Keys, Black Lion, George 4th and The Tabard in Chiswick and I wrote most of my second Shakespeare adaptation, Hamlet – Horatio’s Tale in The Station, Hare and Hounds and Red Lion in Kings Heath, Birmingham. I like to write in pubs because you can be in a crowd and connect with ‘real life’ yet be isolated and undisturbed.

So thanks to Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay for The Choir of Man – and this very relevant speech. Go see the play. Then go to the pub afterward!


Week… oh heck.. the last day!


Nick Hennegan’s VERY Rough Guide to the Fringe. He presents quick updates from the World’s Biggest Open Arts Festival – the Edinburgh 2022 Fringe! Also at — Send in a voice message:

The Appraisal, Review. Edinburgh Fringe ’22.

Rating: 🍷🍷🍷🍷

4 out of 5. For now. But will soon, we think, be the Full bottle!

The World Premiere of a tense, relatable, British thriller.

There’s a kind of genius with this new play, written and directed by Fringe stalwart, Tim Marriott. And, full disclosure, not only do I now know all those involved with this production, but watching this world premiere in the small container-case theatre on Princes Street, I shockingly realised that I’ve led such a chaotic (bohemian?) life, I’ve NEVER actually had a work appraisal! Although judging from the knowing chuckles from the rest of the audience, I am very much in a very small minority. And I’m not SO excluded from ‘proper’ life that I couldn’t relate to the corporate jargon and H.R. ‘speak’. After all, I’ve had to do risk assessments for theatre!

But what Marriott has done is create a British Theatre piece that keeps us guessing. It’s not as dark as, say, Mammet’s Oleanna. And there isn’t the variety of situations we might find in Russell’s Educating Rita. And this is its genius, I think. We almost instantly know these characters! They are us. There’s a glorious, Brechtian theatricality to their non-theatricality.

The play sees Jo (Joe?), the line manager of Nicky (Niki?) conducting her annual work appraisal. No big deal, right? It happens every year to millions around the world (apart from me..!) So what could go wrong with this routine occurrence? And that’s the clever bit. We’re in a theatre watching a drama but the drama forms from its inherent normality.

Brilliant performances from Angela Bull and Nicholas Collett allow us to relate to the characters like easy friends. In other plays and circumstances, when manager Jo stands uncomfortably close to Nicky, we’d be expecting an inappropriate, dramatic act. But here, Nicky feels uncomfortable and just moves away. Like we all would. No drama! We believe that Nicky is just going through the usual corporate game. And we believe that Jo genuinely cares about his employees.

So when normality starts to deteriorate, gently and almost accidentally, the cracks appear. Things escalate and we’re horrified for these ‘normal’ people suddenly dealing with life changing situations.

And there’s a twist at the end.

But is it the end? Even though it stands on its own, I found out that this acclaimed piece is apparently only the first half of a planned two-act play!

I look forward to seeing the full production. And ticking that box. I hope my line-manager agrees!

Day four… no! Week 3!


Nick Hennegan’s VERY Rough Guide to the Fringe. He presents quick updates from the World’s Biggest Open Arts Festival – the Edinburgh 2022 Fringe! This time, Sir Ian McKellen, Sherlock Holmes and Scrummie Mummies!

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