Review: The Frogs, Jermyn Street

“Gods of the theatre, smile on us”

No matter the star quality of the names associated with The Frogs – Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver were in the original student company who performed it in a Yale swimming pool in 1974, Nathan Lane was one of the co-writers who expanded it for a Broadway run in 2004 – but there’s no escaping the fact that it is one of Sondheim’s rarely performed musicals. It’s a descriptor that rightly causes a deal of trepidation – more often than not there’s a good reason that works collect dust on the shelf and the hunt for worthy rediscoveries only rarely turns up a diamond.

Another way of looking at it is that you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince and if this isn’t an outright amphibian, it’s also by no means royalty. Loosely based on a 405 BC play by Aristophanes but sending up Greek comedy at the same, we follow Michael Matus’ Dionysos and his slave Xanthias, played by George Rae, as they journey to Hades to find someone who can “enlighten the easily misled and coerced masses of Earth”. They light on George Bernard Shaw as a saviour but Shakespeare has something to say about it, as do Herakles, Charon, Pluto and a chorus of frogs… Continue reading “Review: The Frogs, Jermyn Street”

Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre

“Dancing, oh so beautifully
Dancing, dancing together
Dancing, oh as if in a dream”

It’s not often I leave a play with penis envy – giant golden cock hat envy to be precise – but that’s how I felt leaving the newly-opened Dorfman Theatre (the National’s Cottesloe getting a much needed facelift) after the blisteringly good fun of Here Lies Love. (I also felt sad that I didn’t get a glowstick, it was only later I realised they weren’t being handed out to all and sundry.) But by and large, the abiding feeling was one of huge exhilaration, akin to the endorphin rush of a good night’s clubbing, for if you’ve booked correctly, that’s what you get here.

You can sit down to see the show, the tiered seating of the theatre remains intact, but the real route into Alex Timber’s ingeniously immersive production is by getting a dancefloor ticket, whereby one is thrust right into the midst of this utterly idiosyncratic musical which tells of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines entirely through the medium of dance music from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. It is so thoroughly audacious a concept that it is hard to fathom how it even came into being, never mind emerge as the huge success it is here. Continue reading “Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre”