Review: Hello Again, Hope

“The bed was not my own”
 

Round and round and round we go, Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde has inspired many an adaptation, so much so that the Hope Theatre’s Hello Again can’t even boast of being the only one on Upper Street (F**king Men at the King’s Head newly extending into December). But it is the only musical version there, Michael John LaChiusa crafting the daisy chain of sexual encounters into a song cycle that moves from decade to decade just as much as it does from bed to bed.

The show is made up of 10 two-handers, connected by one character remaining in the next scene, so first we have The Whore and The Soldier, then The Soldier and The Nurse, The Nurse and The College Boy and so on until The Senator and The Whore completes the cycle. But the timeline is played non-chronologically, the characters aren’t necessarily the same person from scene to scene, the only real connection is the multitude of ways in which sex is used and abused in our daily lives, no matter how sexuality is perceived in that particular age. Continue reading “Review: Hello Again, Hope”

Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion

“Learning to let go”

Just a quickie for this one-off – a fundraiser for the Make A Difference Trust of this late 1980s song cycle inspired by the AIDS memorial quilt. The original London production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens actually transferred to the Criterion – where tonight’s show was – from the King’s Head but it’s a little difficult to see how this production with its nearly 50-strong company could ever have been scaled down to fit into that Islington pub theatre. But given how the show is made up of individual songs and monologues, each inspired by a different panel on the quilt representing the life of someone who has died from HIV/AIDS, its inherent flexibility shows how it can take whatever form is needed.

Here, Stephen Whitson’s production takes on a new 21st century version of the book by Bill Russell, the updating of which has mixed results. Contemporary references clang a little awkwardly but there’s more of a problem in that neither the fast-moving world of medical advancements nor the changing nature of the epidemic itself are really reflected – the show is already a period piece in so many ways that it perhaps would be better to leave it that way rather than trying to chase a relevance that would be better served by a completely separate part two. Continue reading “Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, Criterion”

Review: The Pirates of Penzance, Richmond Theatre

“We can’t make piracy pay”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s titular buccaneers may struggle with a lack of a ruthless edge but Sasha Regan’s sharp eye means that piracy definitely pays as her all-male interpretation of The Pirates of Penzance enters a fifth year of swashbuckling success. From its initial run at the Union Theatre in 2009 and subsequent transfer to Wilton’s Music Hall, it has toured Australia, played the Hackney Empire and now returns for a UK tour which runs through to the end of June.

And getting to gaily tread the measure one more time was indeed an especial pleasure once again. In the august surroundings of Richmond’s Victorian theatre, the set design may look a little spare but once the stage is filled with heaving bodies – whether preening with piratical glee, gambolling in corsets or patrolling a policeman’s lot, or indeed all three at the same time, the musical spectacle of these eighteen lads, plus pianist, is quite something to behold. Continue reading “Review: The Pirates of Penzance, Richmond Theatre”

Review: The Fix, Union Theatre

“Is it possible to be drunk and have a hangover at the same time”

Staged and directed at the Union Theatre by Michael Strassen, whose award-winning production of Assassins played here in 2010, the plot of The Fix follows the Chandlers, a Kennedy-esque dynasty of political players. When presidential hopeful Senator Reed Chandler pops his clogs in flagrante with a lady other than his wife, the family’s attention turns to Cal, his layabout playboy son. Mother Violet, a gin-sozzled matriarch, and uncle Grahame, a crippled gay Machiavelli, groom him to take up the family mantle but Cal is a reluctant politico, seeking refuge in drugs and extra-marital affairs. And as the stakes get higher the further into government he rises, the more dangerous it gets for those skeletons in the closet.  

Composed by Dana P Rowe and with book and lyrics from John Dempsey, the 1997 show unfortunately occupies an uneasy middle ground between trying to tell the story above, yet simultaneously make satirical digs at the political classes, and I am not sure that it does either particularly well. It is therefore to their credit that the lead players, under Strassen’s careful direction, manage to tease as much out of their characters as they do.  Continue reading “Review: The Fix, Union Theatre”

Review: Lucky Stiff, Landor

“We’re down on our knees braving rabies and fleas”

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Ragtime was one of the highlights of the musical year in London and along with their revival of Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man, marked a year with remarkable highs for the Landor Theatre in Clapham. Their small-scale but big-impact productions have proved a welcome boost to the London fringe musical scene, marked by their success in the Offies awards last week, and the Landor are clearly looking to maintain that by reviving Ahrens and Flaherty’s first show Lucky Stiff. A frivolous musical farce, based on Michael Butterworth’s The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, the plot revels in the nonsensical and ridiculous as we caper from a dowdy English shoeshop and an Atlantic City optometrist’s office to the glitzy casinos of Monte Carlo with gay abandon.

Harry Witherspoon’s existence selling footwear is thrown into chaos when an unexpected bequest from an unknown uncle falls into his lap, but with certain strings attached. In order to get his inheritance, Harry needs to take the embalmed body of his uncle on a trip to Monte Carlo and pass him off as alive, or else the money will go to the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Further complicating matters is the uncle’s lover Rita, six million dollars worth of diamonds that have gone missing, an over-friendly Italian, cross-dressing maids, a representative of the dogs home with her eyes on the cash and a suspicious-looking Arab, as everyone descends on the South Coast of France in a madcap rush with much confusion ensuing. Continue reading “Review: Lucky Stiff, Landor”

Review: Silence! The Musical, Above the Stag

“I’ll throw her in a well so that no-one can find her,
I’ll tuck my dick between my legs and call it a vagina”

Silence! The Musical is described as ‘the unauthorised parody of The Silence of the Lambs‘ and grew from a collection of songs posted on the internet into an off-Broadway show in 2005. It had a two week run in Baron’s Court last year, but this version at the Above the Stag theatre above a Victoria gay bar is billed as the European professional premiere: it has added new material getting its first airing and retains the original director from New York, Christopher Gatelli.

It does what is says on the tin, it’s a relatively faithful rerun of the events of the film where trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling is pressed into interviewing notorious psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in prison in order to help catch another serial killer Buffalo Bill. However, it is mercilessly and hilariously parodied throughout with a book by Hunter Bell and music and lyrics by Jon & Al Kaplan and a chorus of singing and dancing lambs. Continue reading “Review: Silence! The Musical, Above the Stag”