Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse

I have a gay old time with warm-hearted new musical Unexpected Joy at the Southwark Playhouse

“I wanna show you what a woman can do”

One way to assess whether we’re getting closer to true equality when it comes to telling LGBT+ stories is when we can safely say that there’s a diversity in those stories. I can fully appreciate why some might feel frustrated at the simple primary colours of this coming-out story, of its (relatively) uncomplicated emotion but at the same time, isn’t it great to see a lesbian take on a mainstream rom-com trope, aimed at the silver pound to boot.

The Joy of Unexpected Joy is a baby-boomer era who is marking the one year anniversary of the death of Jump, her creative and life partner. And as she prepares for a concert celebrating his music, she invites her estranged tele-evangelist daughter and grand-daughter to share in the moment. And also to break the news that she is getting married, to a woman – that’s the unexpected bit, testing the familial bonds between these three generations of women.  Continue reading “Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Beggar’s Opera, Open Air Theatre

“You will always be a vulgar slut”

The Beggar’s Opera written by John Gay in 1728 was the first example of the ballad opera, perhaps the forerunner to today’s jukebox musicals in folding in pre-existing tunes to a satirical narrative that poked fun at the ever-popular Italian operas that were all the rage. Gay set his play in amongst the lowlifes of society, our main protagonist Macheath is a highwayman and raging lothario and the slowly twisting plot follows his shenanigans as he gets married to Polly Peachum, despite having gotten Lucy Lockit pregnant, unaware that the parents of both are part of a corrupt justice system that would happily see him hang so that his reputed fortune would come to them. Lucy Bailey directs this production which takes place in the elegant Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park.

The overall impact is somewhat underwhelming though, the score not really proving to be melodically distinct enough, nor the story witty or moving enough to really crackle with life. For 2 hours 40 minutes, there is very little to the plot and much of the running time is taken over by the 69 songs that are sung throughout the show. Though mostly sung well, these rarely progress the action but rather arrest the flow and as the vast majority of them fall neatly into the English folk ballad category, there’s a gnawing sense of repetition that sets in. And even when there is no singing, there’s little vibrancy or energy on stage, movement director Maxine Doyle of Punchdrunk has introduced a rather sluggish pace and Bailey’s direction does not draw out enough of the comedy from the productions or her performers. Continue reading “Review: The Beggar’s Opera, Open Air Theatre”