THE UNDERGROUND MAN adapted by Nick Wood from the novel by Mick Jackson

Nottingham Playhouse Neville Studio September/October 2016

Nottingham Evening Post 28/09/16

The Underground Man at Nottingham Playhouse is ‘quietly strange and riveting’. mick-jasper-as-clement-iain-armstrong-as-duke-of-portland

He had a mania for building elaborate tunnels under his house, he was a hypochondriac and a chronic reclusive, he was followed everywhere he went by a floating boy, and he tried to drill a hole in his own head.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Nick Wood, The Underground Man, is loosely based on the life of William, the Fifth Duke of Portland, whose stately pile was Welbeck Abbey in north Nottinghamshire. At first you assume that William is borderline eccentric/mentally ill. By the halfway mark you’re forced to conclude that he must be borderline mentally ill/mad. But all the time you know he’s courteous, kindly and philanthropic. Most of all he’s childless and lonely.


It’s a highly effective two-hander, with beautifully and suitably understated performances from Iain Armstrong as William and Mick Jasper as his butler Clement, and all the other many roles. Clement also serves as narrator. iain-armstrong-as-duke-of-portland

Brilliant atmospheric background music, and assorted sounds from a moving train to a heartbeat, are contributed by musician and composer Nigel Waterhouse on accordion. He adds an extra dimension to the action as, from time to time, he almost follows the actors about. His expression sometimes puzzled, sometimes sorrowful, reminds you a bit of Harpo Marx. iain-armstrong-as-duke-of-portland-nigel-waterhouse-composer

This is the mid-19th century, an age of uncertainty when thinking people are questioning old assumptions about the literal truth of the Genesis creation story and the like. William is just such a questioner, writ large. One of the most moving scenes in the play comes when he’s being shown round Cresswell Caves, his own property, by the local clergyman/amateur palaeontologist.

Directed by Andrew Breakwell, this studio presentation, upstairs in the Neville Room, is a quietly strange, original and riveting piece of theatre. Someone ought to adapt it for Radio Four. iain-armstrong-as-duke-of-portland-5

YOU CAN ALWAYS HAND THEM BACK by Roger Hall and Peter Skellern

Mercury Theatre Colchester June 2014

YCAHTB 4 (Robert Day)

If you’re of a certain age and want a joyous nostalgia show, this may be just the one for you. Working from a deliciously funny script by Roger Hall – author of the legendary hit comedy Middle-Age Spread, to which this might almost seem like a sequel – Peter Skellern has woven a series of entrancing songs, scripting his own lyrics teased from the homely script. A finely directed (Andrew Breakwell), beautifully acted and enchantingly melodious show that will warm the cockles of many ageing hearts.

Roderic Dunnett Musical Theatre Review

Cherish the grandparental years while you can, this show says. I found it wonderfully moving — a gem of an evening for anyone with a family and a heart.

Quentin Letts Daily Mail

This is not quite your usual musical comedy but it is a delight, especially if you’re over a certain age, because it’s all about the worrying vicissitudes and pleasures of grandparenting.

David Henshall EADT

All in all, You Can Always Hand Them Back offers much more than a laugh. With the mixture of beautiful choreography and simple staging the characters become bigger than life offering a wonderful snippet into a fruitful final chapter of this couples life.

Rachel McCourt The Grapevine

Although we never actually see Olly, Sophie or Leonard in the flesh, their own passage from squirming baby days (any babysitter’s nightmare) through childhood onto the brink of maturity is charted through their grandparents’ experience of them and their final leave-taking of Maurice is lump-at-the-back-of-the-throat stuff.

Anna Morley-Priestman What’s Onstage

ROOTS by Arnold Wesker

Nottingham Playhouse, Mercury Theatre Colchester, Hull Truck and New Vic Theatre Stoke 2012

Kitchen sink plays, circa 1959 might be thought of as yesterday’s news. But this revival of Arnold Wesker’s Roots, directed by Andrew Breakwell, shows that this is not necessarily so. The message you take from the play might not be the same as the one you took fifty odd years ago, but it still speaks mightily to you. Nottingham Evening Post

Andrew Breakwell’s lovingly crafted production, compassionate and sympathetic, is not afraid of slow burns and silences. Particularly haunting are the end of Act One, with the call of the owl and encroaching dark, the liberating Bizet, and the awkward family gathering, ill-matched chairs hugging the walls, the tick of the clock and the chink of cups accentuating the mute incomprehension which precedes Beatie’s big speech. The Public Reviews

Director Andrew Breakwell resurrects this engrossing kitchen-sink drama, the central pillar of The Wesker Trilogy. The play remains a powerful exploration of the family, a simple story skilfully told.An absorbing production. The Stage

There’s a harmonic arch to the play which Andrew Breakwell’s production draws out Whats on Stage

THE WORM COLLECTOR “The best theatre-in-education production we have seen at the college.” “A really effective piece of T.I.E. Clever use of multi-roling/documentary, with original and engaging workshop which certainly had our Year 7s involved and raising issues for staff to pursue. Resources excellent.”

UNDER THE STORY TREE There’s plenty of interaction for the audience in these tales of merchants, peasants and nobles, and some gentle guidelines for life too. The tortoise might be slow and the monkey forgetful, but if the two help each other and then everybody joins in, the result can be magic. The Stage “It was a wonderful production – I couldn’t fault any of it. The children were fully engaged and came out buzzing!! Thank you.”

THE CARETAKER It’s a lovely, detailed performance in a show full of good things … even if it cannot answer all your questions about the play itself. We may not know what the future holds for Davies (or for Aston, or the latter’s more overtly menacing younger brother Mick) but in director Andrew Breakwell’s staging we are reminded of human frailties; not least our desire to dominate, and our knack of talking without communicating. Nottingham Evening Post

It is the timelessness of the theme and depth of its possible interpretations that make it a truly great play. The Stage

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN We are made to care about the lives of the good-hearted Roberta, Peter and Phyllis as they wait for the return of their beloved “Daddy”. Evening Standard

It is just a whoosh of smoke but because the actors so clearly believe in it, we do too. It is a little moment of magic. The evening has a pleasing simplicity all round, and Breakwell’s production turns what might have seemed purely episodic into something far more fluid. Daily Telegraph

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