Review: Guys and Dolls, Royal Exchange

“The passengers were bound to resist”

Michael Buffong’s reinterpretation of Guys and Dolls, a co-production between the Royal Exchange and Talawa Theatre, is just that, a bold re-envisioning of the classic musical that consequently comes up with something different. That’s the point. So it may take a second to recalibrate, to adjust to these portrayals of familiar characters but in doing so you get to embrace something fresh and new and really rather exciting.

Moving the show from Times Square to the heart of the Harlem Renaissance in 1939 allows Buffong to employ an all-black cast, infuse Frank Loesser’s score with jazz and gospel (new orchestrations by Simon Hale) and introduce a vibrant choreographic vision (by Kenrick Sandy) that draws on several decades of dance history. The result is less-concept heavy than you might expect and often, explosively good fun. Continue reading “Review: Guys and Dolls, Royal Exchange”

Cast for the Royal Exchange’s Guys and Dolls announced

The Royal Exchange in Manchester have really been upping the ante as far as their Christmas musicals are concerned. Last year’s Sweet Charity was a stonker, their Into the Woods was something special, and 2014/15’s Little Shop of Horrors was basically perfection. This year see them tackle Broadway classic Guys and Dolls in a co-production with Talawa Theatre Company and by the crin (as my Aunty Mary would say – a bit of Wigan dialect for you there…) just take a look at this bushel and a peck’s worth of beauties!  Continue reading “Cast for the Royal Exchange’s Guys and Dolls announced”

Review: The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“I’ve decided I’m going to be white”

Just a quickie for The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin as it closes in a couple of days and I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed with it. Kirsten Childs’ musical follows its protagonist Viveca from childhood in 1960s LA to 1990s New York, from a relatively sheltered middle class life to the harsher realities of trying to make it as a dancer on Broadway, plus navigating her way through the racism and sexism inherent in so much of contemporary society.

But though there’s much in the story that resonates (it is partly based on Childs’ own experiences), the show never quite connects in the same way. It picks with a magpie-like glee at a world of musical theatre references without really settling into its own identity, and musically the mix of Motown, pop and r’n’b feels a bit scattershot. Josette Bushell-Mingo’s production has surface glamour but even with Karis Jack and Sophia Mackay splitting the role of the younger and older versions of Viveca, there’s not enough of the grit to really ground the story.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 11th March

Review: A Day at the Racists, Finborough

“People aren’t out and out racist any more, not like they used to be”

It’s been a bit of a political weekend for me, what with Moonfleece and A Day at the Racists, a new play by Anders Lustgarten premiering at the Finborough, both looking at the encroachment of the British National Party in East London and how this rise in fascist politics could have happened. But where as Moonfleece let the politics form a backdrop to a different story, A Day at the Racists is not afraid to show its teeth and really examine what motivates people to considering the BNP as a serious political option.

Set in Dagenham, dyed-in-the-wool Old Labour stalwart Peter is struggling to deal with the disillusionment of his daily life. This is highlighted by his son Mark’s inability to get regular work and to secure a council flat for him and his daughter, whilst Pete perceives that the immigrants in the area are having their needs met first. When a local BNP campaigner’s message, a smartly dressed British Asian woman at that, resonates strongly with him, he falls for the rebranding and the renewed sense of purpose given to him as she employs Pete as her campaign manager. Sucked into this murky world, Pete is forced to face the conflict between his new politics and old, between new relationships and his multicultural old friends and family, all the while dealing with his ultimate sense of betrayal by a country he has worked so hard for. Continue reading “Review: A Day at the Racists, Finborough”