Review: Paper Hearts – Upstairs at The Gatehouse until 20th May

Paper Hearts

★★★★  “An absolutely charming musical with characters you really care about”

Review by Rosalind Freeborn

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in an author’s mind when a story is being written, the delightful new musical, Paper Hearts, gives you a glimpse.


Young Atticus Smith is a writer who is easily distracted from his work as a shop assistant in a chaotic bookstore by the lure of his typewriter and the fictional world he has created. As Atticus types, the characters appear to us, playing out their drama set during the Bolshevik revolution in Russia where love, loss, trust and betrayal are the emotions which fuel the story.

Paper Hearts

Photo Credit Tim Hall Photography

Background and Review

Paper Hearts, devised and written by Liam O’Rafferty, wowed audiences in Edinburgh during the 2016 Festival. The musical has been expanded by producer Denise Koch for its transfer to the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate. Its story unfolds at a cracking pace. We soon understand that Atticus, excellently played by Adam Small, is in an unsuccessful relationship with Alex, a sparky Sinead Wall, who also plays the lead heroine in the book he is writing.

His amiable boss, Norman, an expressive Matthew Atkins, drops the bombshell that the bookshop is going broke and he’s selling it to Literally Books, an online retailer which also happens to be owned by Atticus’s estranged father, the mercurial Roger.

To complicate the story, Atticus meets the feisty and literary Lilly Sprockett, played with panache by Gabriella Margulies. Atticus falls in love with her over a kind of ‘bookathon’ – who can show off their knowledge of the most authors, books or characters – only to find that she is the new manager of the bookshop and has been having an affair with his father.

Director Tania Azevedo cleverly flips the scenes seamlessly from the contemporary love story to the fictional story as the revolutionary characters come to terms with their circumstances and the bookshop rom com gallops towards a satisfying resolution. You can’t help rooting for each set of characters with equal passion and concern.

Photo Credit Tim Hall Photography

And finally………

All of the action is ably supported by an on-stage band, held tightly together by Daniel Jarvis, Musical Director, as the highly talented ensemble bass, cello, violin percussion and guitar appear as characters from the story and provide pacey and entertaining support for the contemporary players. The singing is excellent and the final number, Paper Hearts, is particularly strong and has been imaginatively choreographed by Lindsay McAllister.

‘To write a story is to give away your heart’, says Norman to Atticus. The deft cast and team of Paper Hearts have given their hearts to this production and it is a joy to watch. You can book tickets HERE

Listings Information


Upstairs at The Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD.


2nd – 20th May 2017


Tuesday – Saturdays 7.30pm, Sundays at
4pm, Saturday Matinee at 3pm. No Monday performances.

Booking Info

Box office 020 8340 3488

Get Social

Social Media Details:
Twitter: @paperheartsmus Facebook: /paperheartsmusical

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s