Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts

Less a rock musical and more Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, Knights of the Rose at the Arts Theatre threatens a return to the dark ages 

“Would you tremble if I touched your lips?
Or would you laugh?”

The website for Knights of the Rose leads with the quote “is this the most epic rock musical?” and bold as that is, well, the answer is most definitively no. That  much is evident from the start as a bunch of medieval knights start doing some slo-mo running on the spot as they return from war. But even as they dream of the ale to be drunk, the Bon Jovi songs to be sung, the wenches to be laid and other such Olde Worlde fare, a Knight’s lot is never done and a new battle upends their world once again. Sacrifice! Betrayal! Bonnie Tyler! In a time when Bat Out Of Hell can come back, maybe the rock musical is having a moment.

But wait, what the hell is Enrique Iglesias doing in here? Not only is ‘Hero’ a fantastically misjudged choice of song, the way in which its first line is used to lead into the track snaps you right out of the world of the show, as evidenced by an audience rolling in the aisles. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theatre this year made all the more so by the fact that it was not meant to be at all hilarious.  An edited snippet of No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’ feels similarly incongruous, ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ pops up in a po-faced moment and overall, as the playlist starts to sound like Now That’s What I Call Music 1066, you begin to worry for the identity of this show which ultimately takes the idea of being a rock musical as seriously as fancy dress. Continue reading “Review: Knights of the Rose, Arts”

Review: Ghost, New Wimbledon

“It really doesn’t matter what comes after or before”

Where to begin… I was a big Girls Aloud fan back in the day and so I was definitely intrigued to see Sarah Harding onstage in this new touring version of Ghost. And being a Girls Aloud fan I’m allowed to be affectionately mocking of her as per this clip, which is far far removed from the opprobrium she has been facing since opening last week at the New Wimbledon. It’s quite a shocking level of scathing criticism that has been levelled her way and one which speaks deeply of nothing less than societal misogyny.

For there is no denying that this is an embarrassingly bad production at the moment but the fact that she is shouldering the blame for it is hugely unfair. Director Bob Tomson and producer Bill Kenwright simply have to take the responsibility for putting something that just isn’t ready on the stage and asking people to pay money to see it. I’ve seen dress rehearsals that were better than this and one can just cannot imagine the irresponsibility of the decision-making that led them to go ahead instead of delaying by a week or so. Money clearly rules.
There’s no escaping the fact that Harding doesn’t look or sound ready yet, her movement is awkward and her projection a little too unreliable but as evidenced by opening number ‘Here Right Now’, her co-star Andy Moss is equally unprepared – I don’t think I’ve ever heard something as embarrassingly mis-sung in a theatre as harmonies, timing, pitching all went spectacularly awry. And with the original set design reimagined by Mark Bailey (on a budget), the show’s illusion game becomes very weak and Moss is singularly unable to hide the fact he spends a lot of time wafting into thin air and emoting badly like the Hollyoaks teenager as whom he made his name. 
So point the finger at Harding if you will, but you’re ignoring the real villains of the piece in Tomson and Kenwright who clearly couldn’t contemplate any change to the London date of their tour and to whom the responsibility of any complaints about celebruity casting should ultimately fall. A bit more time may well see both Harding and Moss improve, though one has to feel for Harding whose confidence will have been severely shaken (she can sing you know), and there’s a half-decent cast around them, Jacqui Dubois’ Oda Mae doing her best to enliven the scenes she’s in. But for a show I have enjoyed in the West End and also on previous tours, this is a most undignified state of affairs. Believe? More like unbelievable.
Booking until 10th September then touring the UK