LAURA CARTLEDGE: I may be biased but I am also blown away...

Fear not, this isn’t turning into an entertainments column, but I do really want to talk about another show this week.

It’s been a bit like that old bus adage – I’ve spent months with my evenings dominated by unpacking, sorting and gardening then two fun things come around in a fortnight.

While the last one was Paul Merton, this time around it was Annie at Southampton’s Mayflower.

And it was amazing.

Not just because my little cousin played orphan Molly, but... well quite a lot because of that.

It felt so strange, taking our seats among an audience of hundreds and knowing in the bed at the front left of the stage was our Jess.

Normally it is my sister’s bed or mine she is trying to get into, usually at crack of dawn and often with an urgent desire to play or build a fort.

She’s still at the scramble-up-the-duvet age while we are trying to blink the sleep from our eyes, and yet there she was...

Jess suddenly seemed more grown up but younger than ever.

Part of me wanted to scoop her up into a hug, while the rest of me couldn’t have been more proud.

My reaction surprised me.

It isn’t like I wasn’t prepared.

For months, a lot of the talk has been Annie.

We’ve had preview performances down the phone, in our sitting room and even while trying to run her and her little brother a bath.

Then we’ve watched from afar as tour dates were posted then the reviews rolled in from across the country.

That is when it became clear this was no nativity play, no village hall offering.

It goes to Monaco for goodness sake and the Miss Hannigan role is being split between the likes of Craig Revel Horwood and Lesley Joseph.

Needless to say, anticipation was high ahead of Saturday’s trip to the theatre.

With my partner away, it was just the five of us – my sister, her manfriend, our parents and me.

And I am pretty sure the balcony above would have had warmer seats as a result of the nervous energy we were letting off.

The show itself flew by for us, despite having a perfectly good view, passing along a pair of binoculars just for good measure.

Jess had a sizable role, so much so, when it was over, my sister said ‘at least we have proof she is capable of sitting down and concentrating on her homework now’.

I would apologise for gushing, but I wouldn’t mean it.

I think it is amazing what she is doing, I’ve been on the planet a good two decades longer and I couldn’t imagine being that


Of course the rest of the production deserves credit, too.

But other than telling you Craig is a revelation as a woman, Annie’s singing will knock your socks off and I’d really love to have Grace Farrell’s green dress... I was a bit distracted.

However, I could tell you in detail about every move, wave, dance, word from Jess.

And that when she bowed at

the end, she filled her pockets with the confetti.