Review: High Fidelity, Turbine Theatre

A complete lack of charm makes this musical adaptation of High Fidelity tough-going at the Turbine Theatre

“Ian’s here
To offer a safe haven
Where you can be yourself
Unshackled and unshaven.”

I’d forgotten about Natalie Imbruglia, so I was happily grateful for the (albeit sneering) reminder about her in High Fidelity and popped her greatest hits on on the way home from Battersea’s Turbine Theatre. I was not tempted to listen again Tom Kitt’s score, which is a bit of a problem when you’ve just seen a new musical. It’s indicative of this choice of production at this new theatre, which at best could be described as curious, though problematic feels closer to the truth.

Though Nick Hornby’s novel and its inevitable cinematic adaptation garnered a level of popularity, they were very much products of their time, the 90s in microcosm. And David Lindsay-Abaire’s US adaptation, retooled here for the UK by Vikki Stone, does little to adjust that, ultimately coming up with something that already feels like a period piece. Oh look a geek, haha! Oh look a vegan, hahaha! Oh look a woman who’s way out of my league who was somehow my girlfriend and who I will stalk until she gets back together with me, hahahahahaha. Continue reading “Review: High Fidelity, Turbine Theatre”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

Review: Hadestown, National Theatre

Way down in Hadestown at the National Theatre is one of the best musicals of the year

“Damned if you don’t. Damned if you do.
Whole damn nation’s watching you”

I loved Hadestown so much that I had booked to see it for a second time before I even got home from the first. Read more about that trip here, including me trying the National’s new smart caption glasses, and read on for a review that focuses properly on Anaïs Mitchell’s brilliant musical here. An adaptation of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, developed with director Rachel Chavkin, it riffs on the myth by relocating the action to a dive bar in the Deep South and redefines hell for our capitalist age. And they fill the Olivier with music, such music, that transforms Hadestown into the kind of experience that lingers long in the mind. 

Mitchell’s score succeeds so much because it establishes such an identity for itself that it dares you not to be seduced into the world of the gods, or at least New Orleans. At its best, its simply elemental – ‘Way Down Hadestown’ has the kind of tune that sounds like it has always existed and will not quit your brain anytime soon. And as you collect the influences – hints of Jason Robert Brown on ‘All I’ve Ever Known’, the Johnny Cash-esque call and response of ‘Why We Build The Wall’, the straight up musical theatre emotion of ‘Wait For Me”s chorus, to name but a few – you realise a new form of Americana has evolved here. Continue reading “Review: Hadestown, National Theatre”

Review: Hadestown, via smart caption glasses at the National Theatre

I try out the new smart caption glasses while watching Hadestown at the National Theatre and am blown away both by the show and the frankly amazing technology 

Eurydice knew how to survive
Orpheus…knew how to live”

The exceedingly kind folk of the National Theatre allowed me to go and see Hadestown a few days after the press night, as I was most keen to have a try of the Smart Caption Glasses which were brought into circulation on Friday. Acclaimed as “a revolutionary new way for people with hearing loss to enjoy performance”, for once the blurb more than lives up to its billing as I found them to be truly innovative and potentially life-changingly good. 

Without wishing to open a whole can of worms about access and diversity within the critical community, it has to be said that as a (deaf) reviewer, I never get to go to captioned performances. If and when they’re scheduled, the timetables just don’t allow for it, so – as in most of my daily life – I make do. I hear what I hear and guess the rest. So the idea of this facility becoming available was one I was most keen to investigate at the earliest opportunity.  Continue reading “Review: Hadestown, via smart caption glasses at the National Theatre”

Review: Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre

“How can I hope to make you understand”

Though my life has long been filled with musicals, Fiddler on the Roof has never been the one. I’ve only ever seen it the once (2013’s touring version) and though I quite enjoyed it then, I can’t say I was hankering after seeing another production. And though Daniel Evans’ hands are sure indeed when it comes to classic musicals, I found something rather uninspired both about the choice of programming it for his new Chichester home (although it is an absolute banker) and in his production.

It is perfectly decent, and the quality is solidly good throughout. Omid Djalili is an effective presence as Tevye, Tracy-Ann Oberman is very good as Golde, and it is always nice to see Louis Maskell onstage. But Evans is a director (and artistic director) who has made my heart sing with glorious revivals such as My Fair Lady and Show Boat (and Company and Me and My Girl) and I missed that kind of magic emanating from the unforgiving vastness of the Chichester Festival Theatre’s main stage. Continue reading “Review: Fiddler on the Roof, Chichester Festival Theatre”

Review: The Boy Friend, Shaw Theatre

“We want to have, we plot to have, for it’s so dreary not to have that certain thing called ‘The Boyfriend'”

If you are quick, you might be able to catch the second show of this production of The Boy Friend at the Shaw Theatre in St Pancras by the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. Written by Sandy Wilson in the 1950s, this enduring classic, a light-hearted pastiche of 1920s shows, is constantly being revived by professionals and amateurs alike, last appearing significantly in London at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park in 2007.

Set in a finishing school on the French riviera, it’s a classic girl-meets-boy story, with secretary Polly falling for errand boy Tony, despite being incognito in their lowly positions and are both actually filthy rich. Their story is placed in the midst of lots of charleston-dancing young ladies and their intendeds, a bunch of madly flirtatious adults, and it’s all jolly japes, flapper dresses and a set of very tuneful songs. Continue reading “Review: The Boy Friend, Shaw Theatre”