Upper Circle was founded in May 2017 by Emma Betty. Since then, it has grown and we now have over 20 contributors regularly enjoying and reviewing theatre, usually covering 4-5 shows per week.
Emma Betty is 25 and a nurse in Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. Emma has the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Soundtrack (On CD!) to blame for her love for Musical Theatre, which she found in her parents living room pretty much as soon as she was old enough to know what it was. She began combining her love for Theatre, the Internet and Writing while she was still at school, through various blogs and on social media. Having moved to London in 2013, she launched Upper Circle 4 years later. A couple of years on, she is delighted to have a small team and is so grateful to those helping Upper Circle to grow every day!
Grace Bouchard joined the Upper Circle team in March 2020. Formerly training as an actress with Fourth Monkey Theatre Company, Grace decided to focus on theatre making and has worked as a director and writer for the past few years creating work with The UnDisposables, Greenwood Theatre Company and Fourth Monkey. With a keen interest in new writing, Grace founded Writers for Stage in Summer 2019 which continues to offer emerging writers a chance to have their early drafts read aloud in a safe and supportive environment, with actors and other creatives. Grace has previously written theatre reviews for The Plays The Thing UK.
Helaina Cressy is 20 years old and in her second year studying Bioveterinary Sciences at the Royal Veterinary College. Despite this she probably spends more time in the dance studio than the science lab, since she is Dance Captain for the university’s Performing Arts Society and both assistant choreographer and a performer in their annual musical. Her greatest love is musical theatre and she loves nothing more than singing showtunes at the top of her voice, and as well as writing reviews she also writes a blog about navigating life as a London student with a physical disability.
Evie Freeman is 21, originally from Oxford and now a final year Musical Theatre degree student at Bird College. She is an aspiring Casting Director and dreams of moving to New York at some point once she graduates. When it comes to theatre, her main loves are musicals and immersive theatre, but since starting to review, she has found a new love for plays and Fringe theatre. The best show she saw this year was Mean Girls on Broadway but in general she would recommend seeing anything by Frantic Assembly. When not reviewing, you’ll find her either training, at the gym or eating (most likely eating).
Niamh Flynn has been involved in youth theatres and school productions from a young age, and studied Literature & Drama at university. Niamh has always had a keen interest in theatre both in an on stage and off stage capacity. Working for an advertising agency; she loves that Upper Circle allows her to keep in touch with her creative side outside of work, whilst providing her the opportunity to see lots of different styles of theatre.
Emma Grimsley is currently in her final year studying French and Spanish at King’s College London. She has just finished a year studying abroad and is really happy to be back in London, mostly just because she missed going to the theatre and writing for Upper Circle.
Chloe Hoey is a Yorkshire lass from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire (a.k.a. God’s Country). In true testament to her northern roots, she lives as north of North London as possible, ensuring she travels on the homely Northern Line whenever she can. She trained at the International School of Screen Acting in 3Mills Studios, London and is passionate about British film, TV and theatre. Loves Glenn Close, animals, new writing & her husband, in that order.
Tess Kennedy moved to London to be closer to her first love: theatre. It’s just a coincidence that she’s also now much closer to her second love, Idris Elba. During the week, Tess works as a Marketer at ArtsEd drama school, but in her spare time she enjoys reading, singing, pilates, pina coladas — although she can take or leave getting caught in the rain. Tess has been writing for Upper Circle since January 2019, where she’s seen more Fringe than Jonathan Van Ness, as well as plenty of one-woman-shows and musicals. Although she’s a big fan of the musical genre, Tess draws the line at Cats. That’s not because she’s a dog person though – Tess loves her family cats more than most humans – it’s because the visual of Idris Elba meowing in a skintight leotard gave her paws for thought.
Jamie Kutner joined the Upper Circle team in May 2019. After an unconventional route into writing via a Quantity Surveying degree and time spent teaching English in Vietnam, Jamie is now working towards forging a career as a screenwriter, playwright and critic. He favours dramas or comedies and cites Simon Stephens as a major inspiration. He also has an inbuilt love for musicals and will proudly confess he has seen Wicked five times.
Maddy Lee has just received a first class honours degree in Professional Musical Theatre and Professional Dance at Bird College. She is pursuing a career as a musical theatre performer, and is excited about all the opportunities this industry offers. Maddy loves to be on stage, but also writes plays, reviews a lot of theatre and enjoys taking on a creative role. Maddy has had a strong passion for all theatre from a young age and has been brought up seeing operas, plays, ballets and musicals, the latter being her favourite. She has been reviewing theatre for the last year and loves to share her passion and opinion with others.
Olivia Mackrill is 20 and currently in her final year of studying BA Design at Goldsmiths University, with an increasing interest in immersive theatre and set design. Olivia loves all theatre, but specifically musicals, and likes to go on and on about the touring production of Rent she saw on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Alongside writing and designing, she is also passionate about filmmaking and learning British Sign Language.
Esme Mahoney is a graduate of Drama Centre’s MA Acting course, having previously studied English Literature at the University of Cambridge. Esme has been involved in productions as an actor, director, producer and stage manager – one of her most memorable experiences was as DSM for a production of Lord Of The Flies, in which she was chiefly responsible for putting flaming torches into the hands of children as young as twelve.
Victoria Margaret is a northern girl lost in London. She is a huge fan of dogs, cups of tea, cake and gravy – not necessarily all at same time. A lover of all things theatre and film; she’s having a ball reviewing for Upper Circle Theatre.
Sammi McSporran has been a lover of theatre for as long as she can remember. While her head carried her to a science career, her heart has always been for the stage and she is thrilled to be working with the Upper Circle West Midlands team in sharing the incredible performances that can be found beyond the big smoke. When she isn’t working or looking after her son, Sammi can usually be found in rehearsal with her local amateur dramatics groups. Her favourite musical is Something Rotten and her favourite play is The Seagull.
Amber O’Connor is a student at the University of Sheffield. After completing her BA in English Literature this summer, she is returning to Sheffield to study MA Journalism. Despite many years spent performing in local productions, she prefers to be in the audience these days, but you are still likely to find her dancing through the aisles after a show. Amber is a writer for her university’s blog, as well as a contributor for other student publications, and she was a finalist in the 2019 Wicked Young Writer Awards, in the non-fiction category
Beth Pratt is a huge fan of theatre who fell into stage managing after studying English at the University of Exeter. She has been working in theatres across London and the UK for the past year. In her spare time she sings loudly in the shower, tries out fad exercises and tells people about her new puppy.
Hayley Rae is a writer, designer and actor who is in her final year of BA Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham. She likes to fill her time with all sorts of creative endeavours, and enjoys taking an interdisciplinary approach to her theatrical work. Outside of her work with Upper Circle, Hayley can be found running around as President of Article19 Theatre Company, pouring over academic essays, and writing an eclectic mix of plays, poetry and prose.
Jess Saunders is a writer and actor, in her final year of a Drama and English degree, at The University of Birmingham. She is currently spinning many (creative) plates and absolutely loving it. Theatre has always been especially close to her heart, from prancing about onstage at a young age, to acting and directing. She has a particular interest in new writing, multimedia productions and getting the most out of a Tesco meal deal.
Charlotte Smith is a recent Drama and English literature graduate and an aspiring actor going on to study MA Acting at GSA in January. She enjoys all kinds of Theatre – especially innovative and boundary pushing productions. Her favourite theatre moment is the annual Christmas musical at the Royal Exchange Manchester – her home city!
Abi Standing is a graduate from the MA Text & Performance course taught jointly by RADA and Birkbeck, where she studied theatre making and how to compromise with people. Despite so far only tracing her roots back to the North of England, she continues to hold out hope for some distant Italian ancestry which she feels would make her more interesting and explain her love of red wine, cheese, art and passionate arguments. Should her attempts to prove this fail, she plans on using her Portuguese husband to procure European citizenship in the event that Brexit surprises everyone and actually happens. In her spare time, as well as watching and making theatre, she loves travelling, playing netball badly and wishing Alex Ferguson had never retired.
Eddie Tansley is an A Level student from Cambridge. His love of theatre began at a young age in his school plays. He loves all theatre but particularly enjoys the darker, grittier dramas (with an occasional light hearted musical thrown in the mix). As well as his A Levels, Eddie is currently undertaking an EPQ into the history of West End Theatres. He is incapable of having a conversation without quoting lyrics from musicals throughout.
Jennifer Thompson is a second year journalism student at University of Sheffield. She has been a fan of theatre for as long as she can remember regularly attending a variety of shows throughout the West End and London. Since moving up North she has enjoyed exploring all the exciting offerings of regional theatre. Outside of the theatre Jennifer enjoys all things Disney as well as filming and editing.
Jamie Wheeler is an experienced director, designer and acting teacher.
Ashanti Wheeler-Artwell is a poet, writer and actor. She is currently writing and developing her debut one women show, British Vogue, that will first be shown as a work-in-progress at Offbeat, Oxford’s Fringe festival from 27th-29th June. You can follow her creative endeavours on facebook @Ashanti Wheeler-Artwell Instagram @poetrythatunpicks or on her website ashantiwheelerartwell.com
If you’d like to join our team of contributors, we are always open to applications from people hoping to improve their writing skills, see more theatre and have their work in an established online publication. We are looking for people based anywhere in the UK. If you are a Journalism Student or aspiring to go into journalism and would be interested in conducting interviews for Upper Circle we also have several opportunities to do this. Please fill in the form below letting us know what you’re interested in and our Editor will get back to you.