Quality Street, 2 Stars

Quality Street
Richmond Theatre and UK Tour
March to July 2023

“The popularity of J.M. Barrie’s romantic comedy was such a sensation in its day that it gave its name to the UK’s most loved chocolates: Quality Street™.
The lead, Phoebe Throssel, this time will be played by Calderdale’s very own Paula Lane, who will be familiar to audiences for her 6 years in Coronation Street as Kylie Platt, as well as her work in Call The Midwife, Father Brown and Kinky Boots.
In a co-production with New Vic Theatre, Northern Broadsides is reviving their delectable production of Quality Street, stirring in a good helping of Yorkshire wit in a new version for 2023. This sweet and sumptuous show was created with a team of retired workers from the Halifax factory where Quality Street™ chocolates have been proudly made since 1936, wrapping the action in their witty and outrageous observations.
Phoebe Throssel runs a school for unruly children on Quality Street. Ten years after a tearful goodbye, her old flame returns from fighting Napoleon. But the look of disappointment on Captain Valentine’s face when he greets an older, less glamorous Phoebe spurs the determined heroine to action, becoming the wild and sparkling Miss Livvy, a younger alter-ego who soon beguiles the clueless Captain. As their romance is rekindled, and Miss Livvy melts the Captain’s heart, Phoebe must juggle both personas while trying to avoid scandalizing the town with her deception, or wrecking her future with the man she loves.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

The language of J M Barrie’s play is a rich texture but sadly the story is rather drawn out and predictable. There are no twists and turns. Northern Broadsides have added in some factory workers to comment on the proceedings but their script is rather repetitive.

The cast all delivered but I didn’t really understand why Fanny was a man in a dress with only one sparkly diamond ear ring. It felt like an unimaginative technique for a period Napoleonic play and more 90s humour than suitable for a modern day audience.

The costumes work well and have a certain chocolate box quality to them, lit well especially in the colourful ballroom scene that opens the second half. The puppets playing the school children were amazing!

The choreography is joyous. Again, the second half ballroom scene is a highlight with the group dance reels. The composer had an extensive range of music and dance styles but the pickup mics weren’t needed with this cast and caused doppler effects as the cast moved around their cage.

The Set Design is a disaster. It looks as though someone put the plans down on a table, spun it around, and built it backwards. Throughout the entire production, the expensive seats in the stalls have to look through a framework that includes a wooden bench. With the set already placed a fair way upstage, the set creates the worst sightlines – and didn’t even come with a restricted view warning.

I had hoped it might roll off-stage after the opening number – sadly this didn’t happen and likely explains why the 2 rows in front of me (A and B) had many empty seats for the second half.

This is the view through the bench that’s right across the stage obscuring the on-stage performance, all of which happens upstage of this bench.

The lanterns added to the set during the interval that light up for the ballroom scene are struck by the cast as we return to the living room setting. Except they’re not. The upper level lanterns that are out of reach remain as a reminder that the design was extremely ill-conceived. It’s a wonder that nobody thought of using pulleys if the budget couldn’t stretch to having a venue tech on the fly gallery for the lanterns. So the minimal set change into the ballroom partially remains through all of Act 2.

Not a show I’d recommend when it looks like this, constricting the performance space and obscuring the view.

Photo credit: Andrew Billington

Quality Street

Box office Tickets are available from the theatre websites with full details on

Director Laurie Sansom
Original Designer Jessica Worrall
Lighting Designer Joe Price
Sound Designer Nick Sagar
Puppet Maker Beka Haigh
Casting Director Sarah Hughes
Choreographer Ben Wright

Jelani D’Aguilar Fanny Willoughby / Isabella / Sandra
Alice Imelda Charlotte Parratt / Jo
Aron Julius Captain Valentine Brown
Paula Lane Phoebe Throssel
Alicia McKenzie Mary Willoughby / Lotte
Alex Moran Ensign Blades / Arthur / Brenda
Louisa-May Parker Susan Throssel
Jamie Smelt Recruiting Sergeant / Georgy / Lieutenant Spicer
Gilly Tompkins Patty / Barbara

Twitter @NBroadsides
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Performance Dates:
3rd March – 25th March New Vic Theatre
Etruria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 0JG

29th March – 1st April Devonshire Park Theatre
The Point, College Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4J

4th – 8th April Royal & Derngate
19-21 Guildhall Rd, Northampton, NN1 1DP

12th April – 15th April Richmond Theatre
The Green, Richmond, TW9 1QJ

25th April – 6th May Octagon Theatre Bolton
Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB

10th – 13th May Leeds Playhouse
Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7UP

16th – 20th May York Theatre Royal
St. Leonard’s Place, York, YO1 7HD

25th May – 27th May Crucible Theatre
55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA

31st May – 3rd June Hull Truck Theatre
50 Ferensway, Hull, HU2 8LB

6th – 10th June Stephen Joseph Theatre
Westborough, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1JW

13th – 17th June Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Millbrook, Guildford, GU1 3UX

20th – 24th June Theatre by the Lake
Lakeside, Keswick, CA12 5DJ

27th June – 1st July Blackpool Grand Theatre
33 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HT

4th – 7th July The Victoria Theatre
Fountain Street, Halifax, HX1 1BP

Northern Broadsides
Northern Broadsides is a unique theatre company with a true northern voice. Their work is characterised by theatrical inventiveness and robust performances from a large ensemble cast of multi-talented and charismatic Northern actors who all perform in their natural voices. For the past 29 years, they have delighted audiences in the UK and internationally with bold, radical and accessible productions of classic and new plays that both reflect the diversity and multiplicity of voices in the north, and act as a catalyst for change throughout the region.

New Vic Theatre
Founded in 1962, the New Vic is the producing theatre for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. With around eight major productions a year, it presents a varied and adventurous programme which includes contemporary drama, new commissions, innovative adaptations and accessible classics.
Recent productions have toured nationally and internationally and have transferred to London and Manchester. The theatre enjoys a relationship with the RSC’s Associate Schools programme; and has been an Affiliate Company of the National Theatre Studio. The theatre also regularly works with partners including the Manchester Royal Exchange, the Oxford Playhouse, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Bolton Octagon, Oldham Coliseum and Northern Broadsides.

The New Vic has developed extensive and award-winning community involvement, working regionally, nationally and internationally through its Education Department and ground-breaking New Vic Borderlines, which works to change the lives of the most disadvantaged members of the community. The New Vic leads Appetite, an initiative to increase engagement with the arts within Stoke-on-Trent.
The New Vic is funded by Arts Council England, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Laurie Sansom
Laurie took up his new role as Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Northern Broadsides in June 2019. Between 2012 and 2016 Laurie was Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Scotland, for whom he directed The James Plays trilogy by Rona Munro. They premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2014, where he won a Herald Angel, before transferring to the National Theatre in London, where they won the Evening Standard and Writers’ Guild Awards for Best Play. They were then seen internationally in Adelaide, Auckland and Toronto.
Also for NTS, he directed his own adaptation of Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat, and The 306:Dawn, a new site-specific piece of music theatre telling the stories of the 306 British soldiers executed for cowardice in the First World War.
Previously he was Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where he directed the European premiers of Tennessee Williams’ Spring Storm and Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond the Horizon, both transferring to the National Theatre, London, and winning him the 2010 TMA Award for Best Director, and a nomination for Best Director at the Evening Standard Awards. He also directed new versions of The Bacchae, Blood Wedding and Hedda Gabler as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Frankenstein (with Frantic Assembly), The Duchess of Malfi, Follies and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
He has directed for theatres around the UK including the Traverse, Birmingham Rep, Salisbury Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, New Vic, Stoke, West Yorkshire Playhouse and the National Theatre, London, where he directed the world première of The Holy Rosenbergs.
At the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, where he was the Associate Director to Alan Ayckbourn, he directed over 20 new plays including Villette (with Frantic Assembly) and a
micro-musical season comprising three new musicals. His Watford Palace production of Dangerous Corner was re-mounted at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and transferred to the Garrick theatre, West End in 2002.
Sansom’s work for Northern Broadsides includes Christmas Broadsides (2019), J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street (2020), Digital Squad (2020), The Aftermath (2020) and As You Like It (2022).