Review: H.R.Haitch, Union

New musical H.R.Haitch at the Union Theatre has a feel of knockabout fun which begs not to be taken too seriously

“We are hoping for a happy outcome”

As Kensington Palace gears up for one royal wedding, Iris Theatre are jumping down the aisle first with their musical take on stately nuptuals H.R.Haitch, now playing at the Union Theatre. And though it features a mixed-race woman (like Meghan) marrying a prince, such is the development time for musicals that is actually the fact that she is a ‘commoner’ (like Kate, apparently) that proves the inspiration here.

For aspiring canapé-chef Chelsea is Barking born and bred, and a strident anti-monarchist to boot. And she’s pretty excited about her suspicions that her nice-but-dim boyf Bertie is going to propose! Thing is, Bertie is actually Prince Albert – heir to the British throne and (for reasons I’m not sure we ever really understood) living incognito among the people. Will Queen Mary accept her? Can the older Princess Victoria thwart the line of succession? And what is it with politicians and pigs…? Continue reading “Review: H.R.Haitch, Union”

Review: Happy Ending, Arcola

“To be or not to be. That is not the question. The question is how to be”

What does cancer look like to you? If it is personified as a dancing Spaniard with crab claws for hands, then I might just have the thing for you. Billed as “a musical-comical fantasy about a subject that people don’t talk about”, Happy Ending runs the risk of becoming a show that people won’t dare to talk about due to a series of baffling decisions pertaining to almost every aspect of a production that is challenging to watch. Naturally, a show about cancer is never going to be easy but it is the misjudgements rather than the subject matter that prove most difficult.

It shouldn’t be like this. The show is based on playwright Anat Gov’s own experience with the disease, which took her life in 2012 and as such, is suffused with acutely observed detail (the overwhelming amount of supplementary medicine, the different coping mechanisms people develop, the mordant humour on the ward) that will be horribly recognisable to many. But in Hilla Bar and director Guy Retallack’s adaptation, something is significantly awry and most crucially, it is with the piped-through musical numbers – which can be counted on the fingers of one hand – by Shlomi Shaban and Michal Solomon.

Continue reading “Review: Happy Ending, Arcola”

Review: Old Goat Song, Lion and Unicorn

There’s a clever bit of word-play with the title of new musical Old Goat Song which will be readily apparent for those with a knowledge of some Ancient Greek, though the rest of us may need a helping hand. The word tragedy roughly translates as ‘goat song’ and the central character of this show, a widower in his 70s, refers to himself as the ‘old goat’, though the overall tone of the musical is less tragic than wistfully nostalgic. 

Bill Fast’s life since his wife died has not been the happiest and he is now seriously unwell. Living with his abrasive sister Cora who is enforcing a low-cholesterol diet, he seeks refuge in a local diner and soon becomes besotted with Cara, a 17 year old waitress there. As he edges ever closer to death, his relationship with her becomes increasingly entangled as the gifts he gives her become ever more grand and the feelings that start to move to an uncomfortable place. Continue reading “Review: Old Goat Song, Lion and Unicorn”