Live Reviews

Act One Variety Night Review

Picture of 4 women standing turning their backs to the viewer.
Act One's Variety Night focused on empowering women in theater.

by Maddie Balcombe

In the run-up to International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure of attending Act One’s fourth Variety Night showcase, set in the grand hall of Cardiff University’s music department. The show was a moving and empowering event, with the purpose of celebrating women in theatre. Complete with poetry recitals, full-out musical numbers, and comedic quips from hosts Ciara Whelan and Joe Lloyd-Perks, it really was the perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.

This year, Act One made the decision to donate most of the show’s proceeds to Rosa UK – a grantmaking charity that focuses on funding grassroots foundations across the UK while promoting women’s rights. Rosa UK was the perfect choice for this event, which aimed to showcase strong women in theatre, who have earned their place on stage and given so much to this industry. Act One’s variety night also held inclusivity at its heart, a core value shared by both Rosa UK and the Act One team. Despite being a night to celebrate women, Act One didn’t shy away from including men in their showcase, which I personally found extremely uplifting – after all, you don’t have to be a woman to celebrate women!

The show had a diverse range of performances, such as poetry recitals and full-out musical numbers.

The show opened with Tess Hanson’s chilling rendition of ‘Timeless’ by Rupi Kaur, a poem that reminds us to never underestimate the power women hold, a message that is echoed through all different acts of the show. From Jess Bragg’s convincing portrayal of Annie’s Miss Hannigan, to Jacob Matthews’ moving rendition of Funny Girl, Act One made sure they had all bases covered. They paid tribute to heroes and villains alike, showcasing the multifaceted brilliance of women and allies in theatre. The team behind Act One also ensured that Rosa UK’s message of inclusivity was reflected in the range of musical numbers; Safia Bartley’s Coloured Woman, Sara Sezzatini’s Everything I Know, and Georgette Orford’s So Big / So Small were some of the many that showcased the diversity of the female experience. 

At the end, the director of Variety Night, Georgette Orford, stepped onstage to relay her closing speech. As the lights came up, Georgette expressed her vision for the show – to create an event that left us feeling empowered, uplifted and inspired – to roaring applause, even as the curtains drew closed. 

The whole cast and crew succeeded at making an incredibly entertaining show and a pleasant evening for all in the audience.

From start to finish, it’s evident the cast and crew pulled out all stops to make this an inspiring night to remember, especially considering that, for many, this show may have been the first time back in the theatre since COVID-19. Georgette and the rest of the production team (Vicki Merker, Max Markham and Sam Gavin-Pitt) achieved their vision, making Variety Night an incredibly enjoyable evening – I, for one, can’t wait to see what Act One get up to next!

A special thank you to the Act One society for inviting us to the Variety Night!

The Cast:

  • Bethany Magennis-Prior
  • Esther Korner
  • Honor Letts
  • Jacob Matthews
  • Jess Bragg
  • Maddie Dawson
  • Maisy Sinclair
  • Morna Muzawazi
  • Ronald Manda
  • Safia Bartley
  • Sarah Clifton
  • Sarah Houston
  • Sydney Richards
  • Chloe Woodhouse
  • Sara Sezzatini
  • Tess Hanson
  • Ciara Whelan
  • Emma Scobell
  • Shreshth Goel
  • Joe Lloyed-Perks
  • Georgette Orford

The Band:

  • Pierre Labreuche – Drums
  • Rebecca Jolliffee – Reeds
  • Hannah Morris – Reeds
  • Thomas Shaw – Reeds
  • Yeung Ho – Drums
  • Benedict Stephens – Bass
  • Lily Ryder – Cello
  • Newman Tai – Piano

The Crew:

  • Anna Wright
  • Tim Winterborn
  • Lottie Dunkley
  • Chloé Chan
  • Natasha Davey
  • Gabriele Jukneviciute
  • Maeve Foley
  • Vicki Merker
  • Max Markham
  • Sam Gavin-Pitt
  • Georgette Orford

Act One will be having an 80s revamp of Much Ado About Nothing from the 17th to the 19th March at 6:30PM.

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