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Review: Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) (Kiln Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


London is spoilt for choice right now when it comes to new musicals with major productions and one off teasers dominating the West End. However, if you can venture out of Zone 1 slightly, you may find another future favourite as the always reliable Kiln Theatre in Kilburn plays host to new British musical Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York). With an Olivier award winning star returning to the stage, would this show have its cake and eat it too or leave me feeling a bit sick?



You may think you can guess what Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) by the title but you would be shocked to learn there is more to this show than merely two strangers… carrying a cake… across New York. When British boy Dougal arrives in New York for his dad’s wedding, he meets the bride’s sister Robin. While initially they appear to have nothing in common and a clash of culture threatens to dominate, they find unexpected connections and bond as they find they can help each other along the way.


Written by Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, Two Strangers cleverly buries its themes in what feels like a fairly harmless premise, instantly familiar and deliberately so as it repeatedly references its own tried and tested premise. As revelations unravel throughout the show, the clear motives of each character and why they are the way they are comes to the forefront. A testament to the writing is in the subtle way these themes are approached, making the audience do some of the detective work connecting the dots but in a way that is always accessible. The slow burning way the story plays out is refreshingly satisfying with an underlying message that resonates to the true essence of humanity. Without spoiling some of the revelations, Dougals relationship with his dad takes an unexpected turn in a way that resonated with me and moved me at the same time.



Another testament to the skill of Barne and Buchan’s writing is in how funny the script is. Full of situations that verge on absurdity, while never losing that sense of heart, it also boasts some fantastic one liners with brilliantly fleshed out characterisations of Dougal and Robin lending themselves naturally to verbal and physical comedy. It is the little nuggets we get of each of the two characters initially and the gradual reveals of what makes them up which really makes the writing soar.


Jim Barne and Kit Buchan are also responsible for the wonderful score that underpins the show. Managing to combine classic musical theatre elements with a more contemporary feel, the style of songs veer to a more pop sound but never feeling out of place and setting a distinctive sound for the show. Highlights include the earworm opening number ‘New York!’ and a stunning double header that leads up to the show’s climax with ‘If I Believed’ and ‘This Year’ had me longing for a cast recording to relive these wonderful numbers. If I have one minor complaint about the show, it was that many moments felt too quiet though whether that was intentional or a fault of the sound on the night is unclear. This did sadly impact some of the larger moments which felt too subdued for the situation they were conveying.



Though Two Strangers may only boast two cast members, what a pair they are. Sam Tutty returns to the stage more than a year after wrapping up Dear Evan Hansen, the show which won him an Olivier, a legion of fans and the hearts of anyone who saw him before. Already proven himself to be a wonderful performer, he shines here in a role which shows his versatility as an actor, even if the story of Dougal is not a million miles away from Evan himself. With fantastic characterisation and a charm that lights up the stage, Sam is once again a pure delight to watch as he thrills with a fantastic vocal and flawless acting in a character whose zest for life is heart-warming to witness.


As Robin, Dujonna Gift brings an Odd Couple vibe to the affair as her character struggles to understand the enthusiasm and optimism of Dougal. In a role that goes on a transformation, Dujonna embodies Robin beautifully. Initially beaten down whose walls slowly start to crumble as the musical progresses, Dujonna gives a wonderfully understated performance full of nuance which explodes at the right times. Consistently captivating to watch, when she opens her mouth to sing, it becomes clear that Dujonna has the appropriate surname as her voice truly is a gift. A truly sensational performer, what she does on that stage is truly spell-binding.



Tim Jackson’s direction and choreography maximises not just Barne and Buchan’s writing but the pair of performers to create a show that always affects and entertains, and never comes close to being slow or repetitive. Soutra Gilmour’s inspired design sees a stage littered full of suitcases who all reveal themselves to be different props throughout in a glorious use of design skills. Played out on a revolve, the action is relentless as the pair perform laps, creating a sense of a much larger stage than the fairly tight one they are performing on.


As new musicals go, Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) is pretty sweet. A story that plays on conventions of romantic comedies and constantly references films cleverly subverts expectations by attempting to do something different with the premise, and largely pulls it off. The true charm in the story is how familiar it feels while distinctly trying something new, never feeling like it is far from home. While it may not be a Christmas show, the themes are definitely there, fake snow and all – making this the perfect show to experience over the festive season. With phenomenal performances from Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift, it is hard not to fall in love with their characters and the show itself. This is one show I’d easily make a return trip for to experience another slice.



Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across new York) plays at Kiln Theatre until 20th January 2024. Tickets from www.KilnTheatre.com


Photos by Marc Brenner

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