Odd Man Out ~ The Hope Theatre

Odd Man Out runs at The Hope Theatre until Saturday 12 August 2017 – book here: Odd Man Out Tickets

Star rating: *****

A double bill of monologues from writers; Dominic Grace and Lesley Ross, performed respectively by Luke Adamson and Gregory Ashton form the structure of Odd Man Out. Both plays are vastly different yet synchronise and almost meet in the middle, surprisingly well.

Rabbitskin (written by Dominic Grace) is a finely constructed piece narrated by the central character, Joe (Luke Adamson) who is a book-obsessed baby of the family and self-confessed lost soul. He focuses on specific moments in his life and how they make him feel – from washing up to sitting on the sofa with his dad and brother with whom there is a three year age gap. He’s the youngest of five brothers, all of whom he is intimidated and bullied by, his mum having passed away when he was young enough to have been left with the vaguest of memories of the lynchpin of the family. The bookish lad has to man up while his dad skins rabbits for their tea. The rabbit inspires reflections in Joe, (who is unable to switch his thoughts off unless he ‘floats’ outside of his body) putting death and the pointlessness of it to the forefront of his young mind. It seems that many life events in one so young have catalysed panic attacks and general poor mental health.

Luke Adamson is a revelation in the role, holding the audience to rapt attention as he portrays the boy who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, let alone a rabbit, then shocks with the ferocity in which he switches Joe’s emotions. Adamson offers a physical, engaging and intense performance which is not to be missed. The set, although basic, provides just enough of a backdrop to demonstrate emptiness, pointlessness and obsession. The lighting design also complements the piece superbly, enhancing the monologue at every turn.

With an ending which is both predictable and unpredictable in equal measure, too – this is a monologue which knows no bounds and it’s been brought to life innovatively and imaginatively.

(Review by Helen McWilliams)


Diary of a Welshcake, written by Lesley Ross and performed by Gregory Ashton, is an interactive, emotive and belly laugh inducing piece of theatre. If you were lucky, you were fed too! I thoroughly enjoyed my welshcake, thanks! Ashton instantly has the audience on side and tuned in to his story as he played the role of Ralph, the Welshman who would rather be called Tom and has an affinity with elephants. The piece offers a snapshot into Ralph’s life, the scene is set superbly as we are moved rapidly to a major life event for the non-welsh speaking Welshman.

A broken relationship inspires a decision to move to Hong Kong and teach English, so we are transported from the valleys to the orient where we are introduced to Fanny, Windy and Hymen (three of Ralph’s pupils). The puns are there for the taking and they pepper the script appropriately. The clever flipside being that homosexual welsh elephant, Ralph’s journey takes him to unexpected and often dark places – despite the vibrant characters who provide hilarity along the way.

The piece is intricately written, Lesley Ross has a gift for painting a picture with words and creating characters who spring to life in your imagination, courtesy of the precise narration. Ashton has a clever way of leading you to believe that Ralph is a soul who bounces back easily – therefore it comes as a surprise when he falls. The set offered everything we needed to see because the script itself showed us the real heart of the story, which shone through. Lighting also provided its own ‘scene changes’, reflecting the myriad of moods and atmospheres.

I’ve never had so much fun with a handful of Skittles (as in the sweets…) and I reiterate that I enjoyed that welshcake, theatre and food should go together more often!

(Review by Jen Franklin (Guest Reviewer))



Spotlight on Stars of Odd Man Out ~ Gregory Ashton & Luke Adamson

Odd Man Out runs at The Hope Theatre from 26 July to 12 August 2017, book tickets here: The Hope Theatre Box Office

Odd Man Out is composed of two plays, Rabbitskin written by Dominic Grace and performed by Luke Adamson, and Diary of a Welshcake written by Lesley Ross, performed by Gregory Ashton. Break A Leg caught up with both of the actors to find out what their pieces are all about.

Interview with Gregory Ashton:

Tell me about the piece and your character

Well it’s the story of a man escaping a bad relationship and re-inventing himself in Hong Kong. It’s a love story about cultural identity and finding out who you are, no matter how old you are. I play Ralph, who is a Welshman who sounds more Michael McIntyre than Michael Sheen: he is, I suppose, still trying to discover where he fits in, and he gets in to some pretty ridiculous scrapes along the way.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

I think so, but a lot of that has to do with Steve Marmion, the director. He was so careful in his handling of both me and the piece. We had worked together on the award winning Madam Butterfly’s Child so I really wanted to have him back as he puts me in a secure framework to just tell the story truthfully, which ultimately is all you can hope for as an actor

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

Well, I’ve been performing this all over the world for quite a few years now, and the spaces are constantly changing, but there is a unique challenge to performing on three sides… In many ways it is more immersive, which I love, but I also have to be constantly aware of how much I am including all sides, so it is always an adjustment. Then there is the throwing stuff… Will have to think hard about how that will work in the space. What I love about The Hope though, is it is so intimate, which hopefully will help draw the audience into Ralph’s world.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

Well, firstly Luke Adamson is great, and I have read Rabbitskin so I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the piece.

I think people often shy away from one man shows and I understand that… but these two pieces are storytelling at it’s most engaging, so I’d say “come along, grab a drink and be transported for a couple of hours”. And of course… you may be lucky enough to be fed.


Interview with Luke Adamson:

Tell me about the piece and your character…

Well Rabbitskin is a beautiful one man show written by Dominic Grace that came out of the new writing programme at The West Yorkshire playhouse a few years ago. It tells the story of Joe who grew up the youngest of five brothers in Leeds. Thanks to his wonderful father he develops a love for stories and literature and he can name his twenty favourite authors off the top of his head! Rabbitskin is Joe telling his story.

What was your initial impression of the script?

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. When I was first asked  to audition for it and read the script I just thought ‘this is so beautiful, I have to get this part’ luckily I did!

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

The beautiful thing about monologue is that it is storytelling at its purest, it is one actor on a stage talking to an audience. Rabbitskin requires quite a lot of mime alongside the storytelling which is a wonderful challenge for me and really brings the world of the play alive with a beautiful simplicity.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

Mainly I wanted to bring truth and honesty to the role along with an enthusiasm for the stories Joe tells. There’s also a great amount of humour in the script that I was keen to bring out.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The intimacy of The Hope is ideal for this piece. Being a single actor in that space talking to the audience, most of whom will be within touching distance, promises to be very special. It will draw the audience right into Joe’s world of magic, dragons, family and rabbits.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

This is a double bill of beautifully written stories examining how these two characters fit into the world, at some point I’m sure we all wonder this! These wonderfully human stories will connect to something within all of us and ultimately provide an audience with a memorable night at the theatre.

Thanks to Luke and to Gregory, and as an extra special treat, we have the writer of Diary of a Welshcake, Lesley Ross, here’s what Lesley had to say about the piece…

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

Well, there is always an element of the semi-autobiographical to my work, so many of the things that happen to Ralph have happened to me. I have always had an interesting connection to identity and where I fit in, so they are the themes I often come back to and when I first wrote the piece I was living in Hong Kong so culture and cultural identity were foremost in my mind. The weaving of the love story into Ralph’s journey was the hardest part because I wanted it to be truthful, even though it is uniquely odd. Of course nowadays there is much more talk of sexual fluidity so perhaps I was ahead of my time.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

Actually, yes, in this case it was. I mean, I spent months thinking about it, structuring it, finding the beats of comedy and pathos, but the actual writing was relatively quick. There was one major change in the show, which happened around the time we brought Steve Marmion on board and that was to reflect an older version of Ralph to accommodate an older actor playing the part. But that made Ralph’s story more interesting because there are many stories of younger people discovering themselves: it’s nice to explore those themes with someone slightly older; someone who may already know themselves in a lot of ways, but is still discovering new depths and opportunities for enlightenment.

Is it translating well from page to stage?

Well I hope so. I think, over the years, different audiences have responded to different things in the piece and that has often been directly connected to where the audience is from. I remember in one country a certain moment was seen as so shocking that there was this huge intake of breath, but that same moment usually gets a big laugh anywhere else. I find all that fascinating. And of course there is the “audience participation” moment, which always goes down well, but we could never have predicted that until we put it in front of an audience. That is why I love live theatre.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I hope that people go away with a sense of how with just one person and a few props, an entire world can be created! I love the Fringe… it is so important and proves that you can have an amazing night out for a lot less money! There is nothing more exciting than discovering a hidden gem, or a budding actor or director. But more importantly, if one person leaves that theatre and plans to be kinder to the next odd man out that they meet, well I will be satisfied

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Write what you love to write about… and keep writing! The artist’s life is not a steady line but a mess of peaks and troughs… and I wouldn’t want to change that for a moment… so I just keep writing…

Huge thanks to Lesley – Break A Leg can’t wait to review Odd Man Out at The Hope on Saturday.


Spotlight On… Cast & Creatives from Lesley Ross’s: Rameo and Eweliet

All Star Cast for Rameo & Eweliet

A starry cast led by Evening Standard award winner Tyrone Huntley, Olivier award winner Sharon D.Clarke and RTS award winner Tony Maudsley, bring to vivid life Ripley Theatre’s recording of The Sheep Chronicles: Rameo and Eweliet.

The story of two flocks, the black Ramulets and the white Mintagewes, this reworking of the timeless classic (aimed at 6 to 11 year olds) combines riotous humour, a great dollop of Shakespeare’s original verse, and a score adapted by Josh Bird from the Romeo & Juliet classical repertoire (Bellini, Berlioz, Gounod & Tchaikovsky) making it the perfect introduction to the Baaaaard…

The colour blind casting features the superb Tyrone Huntley as the white sheep Romeo and newcomer Kate Hume as the young black sheep Eweliet.

Tony Maudsley narrates as Flyer Lawrence the wise old owl, with Julie Atherton, Haydn Oakley, Daniel Boys, Paul Bazely, Genesis Lynea, Laura Jane Cook, Gabrielle Brookes, Gladys Hall-Ohver, Simon Burr, Simon Willmont, Rose Shalloo, Suzanne Procter and Sharon D. Clarke completing the cast.

Next month sees the release of another musical audio recording, The Sheep Chronicles: The Amazing Adventures of a Girl Called Red, by James Williams & Lesley Ross. Featuring Hadyn Oakley, Debbie Kurup, Llio Millward, Aaron Lee Lambert, Jodie Jacobs, Kate Hume, Anthony Matteo, Laura Jane Cook, Larry Le Conte and Daniel Boys, the narration is by Doctor Who‘s Louise Jameson.

The Sheep Chronicles: Sleeping Beauty & The Ewe’s Duty, also by Williams & Ross, is currently playing the Brighton Fringe.

The Sheep Chronicles: Rameo and Eweliet “An Ewe Musical” is available now on itunes, amazon, and from CD Baby.

Here are some exclusive interviews with the cast and creatives:

First up we have cast members; Tony Maudsley (TM), Kate Hume (KH) and Haydn Oakley (HO) …

Tell me about the piece and your character?

TM: Well its basically Romeo & Juliet with wool and feathers instead of breeches and doublets, sprinkled with lots of Lesley Ross’s sparkle, humour and magic. Rameo & Eweliet is the very accessible version of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, reborn with youngsters in mind and giving them a little leg up onto the literary journey that they’ll no doubt cross paths with further along in their educational careers. Kids, if given the choice, will often pick up a Shakespeare play and immediately discard it when faced with the unfamiliar language and what is to them, an unnatural way of speaking. In Rameo & Eweliet, Lesley Ross has cleverly amalgamated the old with the new, thus allowing the young listener to taste the old without having to be overwhelmed by it, whilst still being able to enjoy the plots and themes and magic of the original.

In the piece, I play Flyer Lawrence, the feathered, flying owl version of the Shakespeare’s wise old monk. The animal version of Friar Lawrence of course had to be an owl. Both bumbling, wise and suspicious in equal measures, though the Flyer, in my opinion, has the edge over the Friar in that he can do a 360 degree head spin…a huge asset in a farmyard where you don’t know who you can trust and who you can’t!!

HO: ‘Rameo & Eweliet’ is a new and exciting project from the creative mind that brought you ‘Barry The Penguin’s Black & White Christmas’. It is an imaginative and interesting take on Shakespeare’s classic love story. But with sheep!? I play Tybalt, the short-tempered cousin of Eweliet our heroine. Eweliet … get it?

KH: So, the piece follows the story of two flocks of sheep; the Ramulets and the Mintagewes. It is a lovely retelling of the classic Shakespeare story, aimed at children and with the addition of songs, set to well known tunes. My character is Eweliet – she is a feisty and fearless animal, belonging to the black Ramulet family.

Haydn Oakley

What was your initial impression of the script?

HO: I felt impressed by the imaginative and engaging way it introduced a new audience to the classic story. We are always looking for ways to reengage with Shakespeare and this is another example of how versatile and gifted a writer he was … a bit like Lesley Ross 😉

KH: I thought it was very clever and extremely funny – and I still do! The farmyard setting means that is easily accessible for children but a lot of the subtle humour will appeal to adults too.

TM: My first impression of the script was one of sheer delight. It was clear, condensed, entertaining, and wonderfully funny, without skipping over the more tragic and serious themes of the original. The great thing about this script is that you’re not being thrown in at the deep end. It takes you gently by the hand and leads you into a world that is new in many ways but that doesn’t completely alienate you and make you feel like you want to run for the hills. The script lifts from the page beautifully and with the addition of modern lyrics set to some of the best classical music ever written, translates to being one of the best educational tools I’ve ever come across.

Was it easy to translate from the page to the recording?

KH: Some of the script is made up of the original language, so that was a joy to record! After listening to the final recording, I feel as though the further script and songs, which are more modern, blend beautifully with the traditional Shakespearian words. I think it reads very well and I am very proud to be a part of it!

HO: I think that it is Lesley who would best be able to answer that, but I’m constantly impressed by the way he can take a story and rework it. Lesley’s imagination is one of his best qualities as a writer but his fearlessness in creating a piece of work like this is also abundantly apparent here. Romeo & Juliet but with farm animals. I suspect he might have been reading George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ around the time he formulated this idea.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

HO: I wanted to bring a touch of menace to the role. Having previously played a Penguin detective with a dry sense of humour for the same writer, it was great to play a character with a different set of emotions. Tybalt is angry at the world and I think that comes across in his words and the way he sings in the musical.

KH: I wanted to ensure that Eweliet came across as courageous and dynamic. I think it is easy for the female romantic character to fall into the soppy and slushy category (!) so I knew I would like to avoid this.

What would you say to encourage people to buy the recording?

TM: Buy this recording and use it as an educational tool. Buy this recording if you want to tease your kids away from their X Boxes for an hour. Or buy this recording just to kick back with a cup of tea and sit back with your feet up and be highly entertained for a while. Lesley has pulled together some of the best talent that the London’s West End stage has to offer and neatly packaged their colossal skills with an upbeat and delightful interpretation of one of the greatest love stories ever told. I promise you, your kids won’t be disappointed and neither will you!

KH: There are so many elements to this piece – new writing, Shakespearean text, classical music, original lyrics and a great cast (!) that it is impossible not to enjoy!

HO: This musical is a great way for people to engage with a classic story. Whether 5 or 105 this story can speak to you. It has a great sense of humour and is also a superb introduction to classical music as the songs are all set to the likes of Bellini and Tchaikovsky.

Also the recording has a pretty stellar cast. Lesley has brought together a pretty impressive line-up of West End theatre performers to give his writing the best possible chance of being accessible to his audience. It’s worth listening to simply to hear the words spoken by the likes of Sharon D Clarke and Julie Atherton (Lady Ramulet and Lady Mintagewe respectively).

Thanks to all for excellent answers! I can’t wait to listen to this.

Lesley Ross

Next up is the Author, Lesley Ross…

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

I have always loved Shakespeare, ever since I played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aged 10. And as a young drama student I fell in love with Gounod’s opera Romeo and Juliette. So, having co-written several family musicals that featured sheep, and having recently adapted The Little Tempest for the National Theatre, when I was given the opportunity to work with a youth company on a new musical for their Edinburgh Fringe Festival jaunt, I suggested turning R & J into a family show using plenty of the original verse and a series of songs based on the R & J classical repertoire. Hence the use of Bellini, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and of course plenty of Gounod.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

As it was a show about division, and division drawn on colour lines, I definitely wanted a diverse cast, but I also wanted there to be colour blind casting, because they are ultimately not humans, but sheep, and therefore any actor could fit into any flock, irrespective of their colour. When we did the original show, the Ramulets were written as black sheep and the Mintagewes as white sheep for no other reason than the sizes of the sheep costumes that we had to hand. It was as simple as that. Beyond the diversity of the cast, the most important thing for me was getting to the truth of the situation, to remember that even though it was set on a farm and intended for young people, it was imperative that the listening audience believed what was going on. I had worked with the actor Kate Hume on Barry the Penguin’s Black and White Christmas and having watched the truth that she brings to any situation, she was always my first choice for Eweliet. Then, after seeing Tyrone Huntley in Memphis and Jesus Christ Superstar, I was determined to get him for my Romeo. For each of the other characters I had between one and three people in mind and in every case I somehow managed to get someone on my list. So I have been very lucky in that respect. Very lucky!

What do you hope the audience will take away from the piece?

Well, hopefully it is a message of love, that love can overcome hate, however tragic the circumstances. We live in very divisive times and at one point both leaders of the flocks sing “They’ve a point of view… Should they matter, too?” and that to me is the heart of the piece: to try and understand the other point of view. I also hope that any younger listeners may come to their next Shakespeare or their next piece of classical music unafraid to open themselves up to the verse, or to music they are unfamiliar with. In this piece, whenever there is heightened drama the characters tend speak Shakespeare’s verse or burst into song and hopefully we have guided the audience well enough that they accept these conventions without pause.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Write. Write. And write some more. Don’t be afraid to fail (I have, many times). Observe people, listen to what they say and compare it to what they do. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to let your noble characters do bad things, and your evil characters do good things. Oh, and be prepared to be relatively poor (and that even goes for when you are successful) … cos a life of creativity is totally worth it!

Thanks Lesley, you’re an inspiration and Break A Leg wish you every success with this and beyond…!

Here’s the website where you can find out more about Rameo & Eweliet and more.

The Sheep Chronicles Website



Two Short Plays About Gays: The Diva Drag ~ Hope Theatre, London

Two Short Plays About Gays stays at Hope Theatre, Islington until Saturday 24 September: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/two-short-plays-gays/

Star Rating: *****

More fablas than I can say, more ‘mazing than ‘lympics! This piece is an absolute triumph and the two-hander cast which comprises of Gregory Ashton and the ever amazing Louise Jameson as son and mother. Written by Lesley Ross and directed by Nigel Fairs, it’s a tale of a Shelley Winters obsessed Drag Queen called Darren/Gladys who has been disowned his mother. The short play cleverly explores Mum’s motives for throwing her gay son out and in turn examines that son’s retaliation which involves dressing up and performing as his estranged mother.

Not only are there some absolutely corking lines in there such as “more ‘mazing than ‘lympics” and a cracking welsh accent from the glorious Louise Jameson, but this piece shows an in-depth view of the history that turned the mother into a ‘monster’. The result being that her son performs as this ‘monster’. Ashton and Jameson are a duo de force, believable as the two flawed characters who have never been able to confront their demons and repair their relationship until its too late. Ashton also treated us to his superb singing voice during this piece and it was a great showcase for his versatility as well as a fantastic platform for Jameson to demonstrate another side to her abilities.

This production was also performed with minimal props and it allowed the writing and the performances to shine. I thought that the costumes also added an extra dimension to the two larger than life characters and I enjoyed the way that one particular item of clothing was used to connect the two of them. It was a moving slant given that Darren/Gladys’ mother had passed away.

Another joyous piece of theatre which surely has the potential to be a longer play, in the future.


Two Short Plays About Gays: Middle Aged Rent ~ Hope Theatre, London

Two Short Plays About Gays is on at Hope Theatre in Islington until Saturday 24 September: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/two-short-plays-gays/

Star Rating: ****

One of Two Short Plays About Gays, Middle Aged Rent has been written by Lesley Ross and thoughtfully and innovatively directed by Nigel Fairs. This has been written to premiere at The Hope Theatre and it is touching, thought provoking and quite a journey of a play.

It tells the story of a teenager who is trying to find his way and himself in London in the 80’s. The older ‘him’ (Gregory Ashton) narrates and interacts with his ‘younger self’ (Joseph Martin) and together they paint a picture of the crazy, heady times from the past. We visit the night club where Mona Lot takes the young rent boy under her wing and Kitty treats the newcomer with distinct distain. Although several characters are introduced, this remains a two-hander and that works well, it allows the audience to use their own imagination. It’s also testament to the writing and the outstanding performances that this does work with two performers. The space lends itself to the piece, superbly and the lack of set and props is also an asset as it allows the piece to speak for itself.

Gregory Ashton is an engaging actor who, I found, has a fantastic ability to draw you in, and his interaction with the audience was a bold and successful move. Joseph Martin was a good match, he connected with Ashton brilliantly and is one to watch for in the future. I feel we have seen a snapshot of what he is capable of, but what a snapshot this was!

If you enjoy new writing and you’re willing to embrace a controversial topic which is portrayed with elements of heart, warmth, exceedingly witty comedy and a healthy dose of drama, this is the piece for you!

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