The reviews of Marvellous naturally also review the new venue, which has been spearheaded by owner Nica Burns of West End theatre owner Nimax Theatres.
This production is a transfer from the New Vic theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is the oldest purpose built, in-the-round theatre in the UK – so a perfect for @sohoplace, which is a flexible space and starting its life as an in-the-round venue.
Marvellous is written by Neil Baldwin and Malcolm Clarke, adapted for the stage by Neil Baldwin, and directed by Theresa Heskins.
The show is a joyful and inspiring true story about Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin who, defying all expectations, has led and continues to lead, the most amazing life. The show is performed by a talented company including neuro-divergent actors.
The cast includes Suzanne Ahmet as Suzanne, Charlie Bence as Charlie, Gareth Cassidy as Gareth, Alex Frost as Alex, Michael Hugo as Real Neil, Jerone Marsh-Reid as Jerone, and Daniel Murphy as Daniel.
The New Vic’s production of Marvellous runs at @sohoplace to 26 November 2022.
"Anarchic and celebratory show is a bold opening for new West End theatre"
"Exuberant production wins the audience over with its sheer heart and good humour"
"Director Theresa Heskins has assembled a neurodiverse troupe, all of whom play versions of Neil – under the beady gaze of Hugo’s “Real Neil” – and countless figures from his life. One actor fell ill yesterday and two understudies stepped seamlessly in. Talk about triumph over adversity, and life imitating art."
"How bold to open this spanking new venue with something so rough, anarchic and celebratory, rather than a star vehicle or a classic"
"As for @sohoplace (still a terrible name), the auditorium is pristine and lovely, the building clearly user-friendly and porous in the way older theatres and converted spaces are not, but commensurately lacking in charm. Currently the public spaces resemble a cruise ship or a casino."
"Understated, charmingly eccentric bio-drama"
"Touching tribute to Neil Baldwin’s remarkable life lifts the curtain of Nica Burns’ new @sohoplace theatre"
"It’s an understated, charmingly eccentric bio-drama about a Stoke local hero: Neil Baldwin... His story must have resonated more strongly in his home town and sometimes Theresa Heskins’ production comes perilously close to twee. But its message of optimism and inclusivity is hard to resist – and makes a robustly positive mission statement for Burns’ venture."
"Under Lis Evans’ design of suspended, illuminated toy-box letters spelling out its title, the play skitters through Neil’s biography, with a winning, deadpan-funny Michael Hugo as the Real Neil rising from the stalls to marshal proceedings and assign roles"
"A life-affirming show that’s true to its name"
"I can feel the adjectives queueing up in my head, ready to describe how this unique show depicts a unique man. “Beautiful . . . hilarious . . . heartbreaking . . . heartwarming . . . playful . . . defiant . . . life-affirming . . .” They all do a job without quite nailing the appeal of this tale of Neil Baldwin..."
"@sohoplace is the first new purpose-built theatre to arrive in the West End in 50 years. I can’t love the @; everything else looks and sounds great. It’s a 600-seater but feels about half that, with two galleries above a wooden stage and a decently raked main seating area. The first three shows at least are in the round, but the shape can change. The leg room is good (and I’m 6ft 5in). The acoustics are tremendous. Nica Burns’s theatre feels like something hugely positive for theatreland. And heavens, we could do with some huge positives right now."
"It could easily turn too cute, but the spirit remains playful and unsentimental. The painful moments, when they come, are all the more persuasive for it. It’s an utterly disarming evening that shows happiness as a day-to-day mindset, not a far-off dream."
"New West End theatre @sohoplace opens with this charming bio-play about the irrepressible Neil Baldwin"
"It's a pretty leftfield decision to open a brand new West End theatre with a play about a man most people have never heard of, with no celebrity cast or big name creatives on board. Almost as leftfield as the decision to name this new theatre @sohoplace, in fact! So it's a relief to be able to say that 'Marvellous' is both a perfect fit for this freshly minted venue, and a lively affirmation of the power of thinking differently"
"A cast of neurodivergent performers take it in turns to become Neil, doggedly overseen by 'real Neil' Michael Hugo, a charismatic, bluntly hilarious presence who crashes onto stage carrying a bag for life of Cadbury's Roses at the start of the show."
"What follows has a refreshingly unpolished, devised theatre kinda feel..."
"@sohoplace's intimate, bright, in-the-round auditorium is the perfect venue for 'Marvellous', filling a niche that more charming but less flexible historic theatres have left empty. Yup, its aesthetic is a faintly naff (twinkling stars, mirrors everywhere), but it's hard to think of another West End space where you could pull of this messy, joyful, and entirely original show."
"The West End’s first new-build theatre in 50 years gets off to a Marvellously silly start"
"Never mind its uninspiring name – @sohoplace is both welcoming and full of wow-factor, its opening show a life-affirming treat"
"Sleek and glass-fronted, with swanky digital signage, it’s as deluxe as a five-star hotel within, its decorative hallmark a twinkling line in astrological references. The amphitheatre at Epidaurus was a key inspiration for theatre-owner Nica Burns, working with architect Simon Allford. And there’s a fantastic democratic energy to the triple-tier, flexible 602-seat auditorium, with no restricted views and ample comfort. The opening configuration (others are possible) is in-the-round, accentuating both intimacy and freedom."
"In skittishly retelling the story of Neil Baldwin, something of a local living legend in Stoke on Trent, Marvellous answers the warm embrace of the theatre with a markedly communal form of entertainment that feels like a much-needed hug."
"It is, superficially, highly incongruous in hip, fashionista Soho, but having seen it up in Stoke, I can avouch that the acoustic, and vibe, is better here. The come-one, come-all spirit of the new venue suits the daffy alchemy of an evening which starts like an potentially alienating in-joke and builds, by degrees and via an ingredient-spattering cooking session, to a shared delirium of life-affirming silliness."
"It's a bold move by producer Nica Burns using Theresa Heskins' no-star production to open the 600-seater Soho Place theatre."
"More sophisticated shows will follow, but until then Michael Hugo's 'Nello' is perhaps even better than Toby Jones in the film, as he guides the other six actors through his life story, proudly sporting a British Empire Medal on a loose grey suit, blissfully untroubled by reality."
"Risk pays off as new West End theatre opens"
"To name a play Marvellous might seem like a risk. To open a new West End theatre with that play, even more so. Fortunately, in the case of this autobiographical drama from Neil Baldwin (written with Malcolm Clarke and director Theresa Heskins), the piece more than earns its name. And as the opening show for producer Nica Burns’ gleaming glass and steel venue @sohoplace (the first purpose-built West End theatre for 50 years) it feels like a welcome statement about belonging and hope."
"...this is a perfect fit for @sohoplace’s softly lit auditorium, an adaptable space that holds 600 but feels intimate. And to launch a new venue not with a star vehicle but with a joyous show, delivered by a neurodiverse cast, that celebrates the potential in difference, well, that’s quite marvellous."
"The action is warmly circled – the upper tiers glow like copper – and embraced by its audience. I’ve rarely been in a theatre where the spectators seemed to breathe so much in time with a show."
"There are sobering notes – a bullying circus proprietor, some brutal “banter” - yet solemnity is constantly undermined. A female actor who insists on delivering a speech about the iniquity of neuro-labels is custard-pied. Baldwin does not want explanation; just imaginative attention. Marvellous is the perfect argument for a welcoming theatre space."