Neil Baldwin's Marvellous Adventures

“Neil got very good at looking after himself even though he couldn’t tie his own shoe laces. “

Neil’s mother

Michael Hugo as the Real Neil Baldwin, Jerone Marsh Reid as Jerone, Suzanne Ahmet as Mrs Baldwin, Charlie Bance as Charlie (Photo: Craig Sugden)

The opening night of the show Marvellous is really about Nica Burns’ brand new theatre, @sohoplace, the first new theatre in London’s West for 50 years.  It is a magical palace of black marble, chrome and tiny lights like a beautiful starlit sky and very pretty and full access for the disabled.   

With an auditorium in the round and 605 seats, every seat has a clear view of the stage.  It is the ideal size to take some of the transfers that need a more intimate space than London’s West End Victorian theatres can provide.  So when you are getting a new theatre ready to open you want to concentrate on getting the space right and not double your worries with a brand new play or musical. 

The answer is to import an existing, feel good production which can appeal to all ages and a diverse community.  The New Vic Theatre in Stoke on Trent first came to my attention in August with their excellent show Tom, Dick and Harry about the planning of escapes from Stalag Luft III.  What was outstanding for me was that the director of the play and two of the actors had researched and written it, as well as being actively involved in its production.  The director Theresa Heskins and Michael Hugo playing in Marvellous were two of those creating Tom, Dick and Harry.

Alex Frost as Alex, Suzanne Ahmet as Suzanne, Jerone Marsh-Reid as Jerone, Gareth Cassidy as Gareth and Charlie Bence as Charlie. (Photo: Craig Sugden)

Marvellous written by himself and Malcolm Clarke is about a remarkable and eccentric man called Neil Baldwin who despite being born in 1946, with something not yet called a learning disability. created all kinds of events for himself, forging paths never trodden before by someone with a disability. He comes from Newcastle under Lyme in the heart of the potteries.

In his time, as a self starting volunteer, Neil has welcomed new students to the University of Keele, been a clown in a circus and been a mascot for, and played in a charity match for, his local football team Stoke City.  He is a true entrepreneur, in as far as all these opportunities, he has made for himself.

The production is fairly madcap with many different actors playing Neil at different times in his life as well as the very talented and zany Michael Hugo, a character fished out of the audience called the Real Neil. Throughout Hugo uses Neil’s halting words; Neil had speech therapy as a child, he has an autistic type pronunciation, effort being required to get the words out.  His glasses and Stoke City red and white scarf are the Neil Costume. 

Michael Hugo as the Real Neil and Company (Photo: Craig Sugden)

We see him wearing a vicar’s collar and welcoming students to the University of Keele, befriending them.  This is where the play’s co-author first met Neil.  There are the celebrations for the 1966 World Cup held in the UK and won by England. We laugh with him as a circus clown where he works unpaid and shares a caravan with a monkey.  His mother is horrified at his living conditions.

The Stoke football team are staged as if they are a Subbuteo game, moving only horizontally, witty and fun.  The cooking demonstration is bedlam with flour, eggs and squirty cream.  Followed by a sugar plum fairy dance and ballet to the “Girl from Ipanema”.  Neil carries his supermarket size Bag of Life everywhere and produces props for the scenes. 

A BBC film Marvellous in 2014 about his life wins two BAFTAS and Neil goes on the Graham Norton Show.  The production is charming and the ensemble of actors, many of whom are neuro-divergent, play their part with verve.  I loved Suzanne Ahmet’s affection for her son and giving him the freedom to pursue his many meetings with football and church celebrities. 

Next @sohoplace has As You Like It,  and Medea starring Sophie Okenodo in 2023.  Well done Nica Burns for realising your own dream theatre.  

(Photo: Craig Sugden)

Production Notes


Wrritten by Neil Baldwin and Malcolm Clarke 

Directed by Theresa Heskins



Alex Frost

Gareth Cassidy

Perry Moore

Charlie Bence

Jerone Marsh-Reid

Suzanne Ahmet

Mike Hugo

Daniel Murphy

Joe Sproulle


Director: Theresa Heskins

Adapters: Theresa Heskins and Neil Baldwin

Designer: Lis Evans

Original Composer and Musical Director:  Conrad Nelson

Composer and Musical Director:  James Atherton

Movement Director:  Beverley Norris Edmunds

Lighting and Projection Designer: Daniella Beattie

Sound Designer: Alex Day

Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis

Original Sound Designer: James Earls-Davis


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Booking to 26th November 2021



4 Soho Place

London W1D 3BG

Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Telephone: 020 384 09611

Access: 0330 3335962


Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge


on 21st October 2022