Monthly Archives: April 2018

PRESENT LAUGHTER                  Chichester Festival Theatre

COWARD GOES FARCEO-FORTISSIMO

 

 

         In the final outburst from our hero Gary Essendine –  silk-dressing-gowned philanderer,  arrogantly insecure darling of the West End    his backer Henry reveals that he has booked the Forum Theatre and the actor howls that he cannot do a light French farce in a space like Wembley Stadium.   A similar faint misgiving afflicted me at the thought of this lighter-than-air Noel Coward comedy surviving in this big airy theatre (especially after the cocktail-sharp intimate miniatures  of Tonight at 830 in the teeny Jermyn last Sunday, see below) .   And for much of the first half deep unease persisted.  On Alice Power’s detailed, towering, detail-perfect set (some very funny touches)  there was shouting.  Yelling.   Overdoing it to the point of mania.  

 

 

       Didn’t matter with Lizzy Connolly’s ditzy, Sloaney invader of her hero’s apartment ,  voguing around in his silk pyjamas the morning after “losing her latch-key”.  Nor did a bit of extreme upstaging bother me when Tamzin Griffin as the housekeeper repeatedly hobbled around the stage in the manner of Mrs Overall.  And Katherine Kingsley as the ex-wife and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Monica the secretary both were as tart , emotionally restrained  and deadly on-the-lines as they should be.  

 

 

     But Rufus Hound –  better known as a standup, TV host and fiery left activist –   is the oddest possible casting for Essendine!     He is thuggish not smooth,  laddish not sophisticated.    Coward wrote for the smooth, the clipped, the swish deployer of killer asides.      Even Essendine’s dramatic  absurdities, designed to fend off clinging girls ,  are cool Charles-and-Fiona stuff.    “There’s something awfully -sed – about heppiness”  “I can’t be free like other men..I belong to my public”.    Hound just  yells them.    Thus by kicking off at top volume Mach 3 from the start  he eaves himself  no space for the real panics into which his entourage throws him  as the farce speeds up later.  

 

 

      Ben Allen’s Maule, the obsessed stalker-worshipper,  goes hell-for-leather too,  giving us no time to wonder whether he is as mad as he seems.    Great laugh lines are wasted: at times the first act is like hearing Bach played on kazoo-and-tuba,  or brain surgery in boxing gloves.   When at last Lucy Briggs-Owen sashays on as the man-killing Joanna you sigh with relief: at last a classic classy Coward-cool character, a long streak of slink and scorn and sexual threat. She’s wonderful.

        

 

        But what begins as a  comedy of manners does turn gradually into true farce,:  wrong people behind doors,  disastrous  revelations of affairs, panic.   And in this area director Sean Foley is wholly reliable: a master when it comes to sofa-bounces,  painful handshakes (an excellent joke here near the end),  and the possibilities of soda-siphons and spilled drinks.   So the second half is properly full-on funny.   And the curtain call is a full-cast rendering of “Why do the wrong people travel?” and a dance. So we all leave happy.  

 

box office 01243 781312   to 12 May

rating three  3 Meece Rating

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ABSOLUTE HELL Lyttelton, SE1

A WAR OVER, A WORLD ADRIFT

 

It’s a great tapestry of a play: Rodney Ackland’s portrait of a Soho nightclub as WW2 ended. Socialites and slobs, black-marketeers and failing artists, unaccepted homosexuals, decrepit elders , a lonely streetwalker patrolling outside. It is louche and honest, funny and sad, just what the National Theatre should be doing. Not least because few others can: a cast and ensemble of thirty, a multi-storey set by Lizzie Clachan with the ability to send clouds and lumps of plaster down. And all the way through, Joe Hill-Gibbins’ cast populating that big stage: milling and surging, scattering, mobbing, gathering.

 

All honour to the programme for acknowledging that it was the little Orange Tree theatre which rediscovered this classic, rewritten by an ageing and impoverished Ackland in 1987. For its first outing in 1952 – backed by Rattigan, who lost money over it – was too soon and too strong. Britain wanted a rosier view of the “spirit of ’45’ and the postwar Labour victory. Binkie Beaumont, the great producer, called the play “a libel on the British people”, and that was only the cautious version under the Lord Chamberlain. By the 1980s the elderly Ackland could be more frank about homosexuality. But in real life people knew about that nocturnal underworld, gay or straight: the programme quotes Betjeman’s 1954 poem about an old night-club proprietress -“I’m dying now and done for, What on earth was all the fun for? For I’m old and ill and terrified and tight”.

Yet the play is not depressing, though after three hours of intricate storytelling the hostess – Kate Fleetwood’s brittle Christine – does sit unwillingly alone with a broken gramophone. Honesty, realism and wonderful comic lines keep it going, Hill-Gibbins’ direction and brilliant cast ensure that all the characters – even the most loathsome – are fascinating. At its heart is another marvellous performance from Charles Edwards as Hugh, a failing writer supposedly working at a Ministry but haunting the club every night, promiscuously assenting to GIs who’ll take any “tail” going, and cadging loans. Perhaps off Danny Webb’s prim Austrian Siegfried, who is losing his party-girl Elizabeth (Sinead Matthews, memorable as usual) to a GI. Or from the loathsome, predatorily camp film fixer Maurice , who is stringing him along and leaves reading scripts to his bullied, flouncing secretary Cyril…

 

The core of both pain and comedy is in Edwards’ babbling, intelligent, fretful desperation, at once Wodehousishly funny and as tragic as anything in Chekhov. After the interval we meet his defecting life- partner Nigel (Prusanna Puwanarajah) who is trying to get married to a rich woman. His neat pinstriped exasperation confronts Edwards’ shambolic shabbiness , in a riveting scene of impossible love. A generation’s pain is in Nigel’s stark reluctant condemnation of “the whole idea of queerness, the whole ambience of boring camp and squalid promiscuity, , nostalgie de la boue and hysterical emotionalism”.

 

Yet that is only one strand; right across it runs a mood of the time, magnified in this loose-living microcosm. These are WW1 babies, battered by inter-war fast-living and then a second war which came horrifyingly soon. They are rationing their very hope, escaping, doubting the future. Aged Julia in layers of dirty lace looks at the patrolling Fifi and says “if the Socialists get in , we shall all be hounded into Piccadilly to lurk about offering our charms, and all that we are allowed to keep will be five and a half percent. My dear, they’re going to nationalize women”. Hugh has one drunken rant about how the Soviets at least value artists, but doesn’t believe that either. Violent drunk Michael (Lloyd Hutchinson) rants that true artists like him and Hugh shouldn’t have to “expose themselves in canvas or print” because their beauty lies in their own heads ; but in his sleep he dreams he is using a dead man’s hand as a paintbrush.

 

There are cartoonish moments, but even the crazed Belfast bible-basher Madge has a whiff of deathly darkness . The news of “the horror camps” across the North Sea comes close to the revellers in shocking moments, and the invasion of GIs in animal masks from a party creates a scene out of Hieronymus Bosch. Yet odd harbingers of normality strike in: Hugh’s innocently fussing mother, Doris the housekeeper, decent GI Sam, a neat British officer bringing news of Elizabeth’s German friend. I wish I could name every character and all the cast: there’s not one false note in writing or performance. It is very, very good.

 
box office box office 020 7452 3333 http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
to 16 June
rating five. 5 Meece Rating

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THE WRITER Almeida, N1

REBEL WITHOUT AN ARGUMENT

 

It is a curiosity of the age that young British women seem to be far angrier about The Patriarchy than their mothers , even though law, language, women’s accomplishments, education, and domestic social conventions are infinitely more on their side , and their struggle is far less. None of our ‘60s victories counts: one wrong pass or incautious phrase and they cry outrage. Every global cruelty and disaster from war and capitalism to environmental disaster is men’s fault too – even when a woman sends the bombers, runs the shops or uses the microbead lotions. Odd

 

In this show the bastards are also in charge of the arts: ruining creative women’s holy myths by mentioning squalid things like the need to sell tickets for the Sacred Space that is Theatre. Ella Hickson’s meta-theatrical play opens with a bracing encounter between a male director (Sam West,) and a truculent, furious young woman (Lara Rossi, brilliant at it) . She has seen a play and informs him that it was unreal,“saying lines..fake hair and new shoes and famous people doing things badly”, that he’s just a “good night out sort of guy” (ugh!) and that old men with flaking skin “tell THEIR truth” and don’t change the world with holy fire. So he offers her a writing commission, but it turns out that when they met before he tried to kiss her, so that invalidates everything, hashtag MeToo !

 

 

The patriarchal idea of logical narrative is obviously out of the question, so it jerks on to a quite funny sketch of a panel – adding Romola Garai and Michael Gould to the first two – discussing a work in progress. There’s one great exchange where the elder man sneers that drama can’t be “just one person’s self-involved perspective on their own anguish” and the woman writer replies “Hamlet!”.

 

Hence to a half-finished playlet (Anna Fleischle’s set nicely built in moments onstage) in which Garai and West are a couple. He (after a quick shag) serves her supper and wishes she would accept a £ 40K film offer for her play. She says it would be like mutilating an unborn child, that she is “broken” in agonizing pain by his love of sofas and Waitrose, and that Picasso didn’t do anything he didn’t want to , so why should she? A real baby is briefly brought on, to prove she doesn’t want one, and next thing we know the set has vanished and she is having an IUD fitted. Which brings on a mythic monologue about being in a tribe with the goddess Semele and having lesbian sex under rippling lighting effects, which is better than the “semi devastated feeling that follows sex with men” because you negotiate your own sameness…
The producer comes on and mutters that though she is frighteningly gifted the play would be better without this “tribal shit” and with an actual ending. So despite her affront (“writers need to be safe”) we move to that ending. Which consists of a ritzier set, the two women eating a takeaway and having sex, once without a huge vivid purple dildo and once with it. Which upsets them, because just as in the end of Animal Farm. the power-game panting of the topmost one means that she has become one of the oppressive pigs. Dicks are evil, see?

 

I get it. I see why this means to break boundaries and change the world, know why the real male boss-class put it on, and why some uneasy middle-aged men – with and without flaky skin – will give it an approving nod. And the cast are all excellent. But I’m a woman, and a fiction writer, and frankly, if this is feminism and a plea for creativity I am a banana. It speaks only for the narrowest of demographics: a notional angry , unloving, sexually militant mythoholic 24-year-old riddled with humourless artistic vanity and self-pity. That Ella Hickson gives her male characters occasional sharp funny lines to puncture this monstrous kid’s balloon is to her credit. But as a play, it is pretty awful.

 

box office almeida.co.uk to 26 May
rating two   2 meece rating

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GUESTHOUSE Eastern Angles tour

GOLDEN SANDS AND GRIEVANCES

 

 

Nicola Werenowska has certainly found fertile ground for the setting of her play: the decline of English seaside towns (in this case Clacton) from the first flashback to 1963 up to today. They suffer still from that decay: the rise of foreign package tours, the closure of a Butlins and the general disillusion with bucket-and-spade-b&b in our uncertain climate. Her designer Anna Kelsey has also found – and protects on a simple curtain – some very evocative images of these towns’ brighter past. At times you can almost taste the candyfloss and Kia-Ora.

 

 

The story, told partly in flashbacks, is about decisions on a failing boarding-house’s future by three generations of women: the doughty Val (Amanda Bellamy), her troubled nervy daughter Lisa (Clare Humphrey) and Lisa’s daughter Chloe. Who, we find, was largely raised by Granny Val and her drunken, disappointed husband whose end we only gradually learn, but suspect for quite a lot of the 2-hour evening.

 

All three performances are fine, nuanced and credible, and Eleanor Jackson’s sulky, resentful Chloe is particularly good: a scowl to remember. The sense of mother and daughter competing for the child in the past is a strong thread. All that is on the side of the play, and I wanted to love it but despite Tony Casement’s direction and the neat little set , there is something woefully untheatrical about it: it might as well be a radio play. Werenowska also lacks the comic lightness for which one yearns. Given a Val as skilful as Bellamy, playing a stubborn old pragmatist, one hungers for the salty seaside wit of her generation. But we never get it. There is a sense, notably from Clare Humphrey, of the sheer slog of running a b & b, and of the way the family all to some extent cling to it as part of their identity. But few lines stick, and few hit home, for all the cast’s efforts. Its themes will be recognized, though, in many of the places the tour visits..

 

box office http://www.easternangles to June
rating three  3 Meece Rating

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TONIGHT AT 8.30 Jermyn ST SW1

Part 1: SECRET HEARTS (and an explanation)

 

This is a fabulously quixotic enterprise directed by Tom Littler: a revival of all nine of Noel Coward’s one-act plays, written in 1935 as a showcase for the diverse talents of Gertrude Lawrence and his goodself, under the title Tonight At 830 . Littler has grouped them in three sets, which you may see on consecutive nights or – as I did – take in all of them on a Saturday or Sunday: thus from the 1930s to the Netflix generation comes a prototype binge-watch.

 

Littler’s pattern (the grouping and names are his, not Coward’s) gives each set two lighter ones before the interval and something more poignant (but still with its laughs, believe me) after it. The ensemble of nine players switch throughout, as in old rep companies, and there is something fascinating about seeing them change between these squibs, sympathizing with the way one is in and out of Brylcreem , or startled when you fail for a moment to recognize that the red-nosed northern comedian is the same chap as the timid Malayan planter.

 

From this first set SECRET HEARTS – it doesn’t matter how you see them, but on Sunday it was first off – it is clear from the start that these are all good sharp comedy performers but with a capacity when needed to evoke profound pain: Miranda Foster and Nick Waring are Alec and Laura in Still Life, on which Brief Encounter was based. . But in the main what we get is tophole character-acting. So Jeremy Rose’s debonair old matinee-idol Julian becomes red-nosed comic George Pepper and then a passing soldier in Still LIfe, while Foster’s grande-dame diva turns faded music-hall sketch-actress and then the respectable smalltown housewife Laura suffering in the station buffet . Rosemary Ashe is a diamond-clipped veteran backstage in Star Chamber, a gloriously vulgar Lily Pepper and then an extreme of refinement behind that buffet counter..

 

 

Which all adds to the fun. So to the plays in detail: I had never seen STAR CHAMBER – few moderns have, and in the 30s it only ran once, apparently – , but it is pure essence of Noel: an unashamedly self-indulgent mickey-take of actors’ ways , as eight variously appalling self-absorbed thesps sit on a fundraising committee frustrating a timid accountant’s attempt to read the financial report. In this cast one first notes that the newest-fledged, young Boadicea Ricketts, is a proper gem . Her gloriously ghastly ich-bin-zo ingenue would have pleased Coward no end, passing the Worthington test but unlikely to be bearable for long in a greenroom.

 

Then RED PEPPERS (framed with the deathless “has anybody seen our ship”) reminds us of something which deepens through the ninesome: that Stefan Bednarczyk is a very good character actor as well as the current king of cabaret and musical director. By the time we get to STILL LIFE, he is an Albert Godby to match Stanley Holloway himself.

 

Actually, of all the three STILL LIFE is the revelation: it is far tighter, and in the end move dryly perceptive about love affairs, than the film Brief Encounter. For one thing it moves faster: not a word wasted, no need for other sets, and the couple do, unlike their film versions, consummate their love. And having the buffet and station staff in view all the time, rather than cut-away to, displays Coward’s rueful talent for counterpoint, comedy amid sorrow. Myrtle and Albert’s growing closeness (and implied consummation) is funny, but less cartoonish. And I had never noticed before how Beryl and Stanley, the teenage skivvies, have their fifteen precious minutes of snogging sabotaged by the middle-aged adulterers’ self-absorbed insistence on hanging about in the darkened buffet so Beryl can’t lock up. Tart, knowing, real, unromantic. Beautiful.
And so, rejoicing, on to the next three…

 

SET 2:  BEDROOM FARCES

One of the pleasures for an amateur Cowardologist is spotting echoes and pre-echoes of other plays; and not least marvelling at the Master’s particular gift for sending up situations in one play which he takes with painful seriousness in another. In this case the first – WE WERE DANCING – sends up the coup-de-foudre love at first sight. We are with Colonial-Naval-Mercantile Brits of the stiffupperlip classes on a fictional South Sea Island. Think Somerset Maugham rewritten for Round the Horne: very Charles-and-Fiona. Sara Crowe, an actress who can be heart-wrenchingly innocent but also very funny indeed, has fallen for Karl, a passing agent, in two minutes of dancing. They go through the full this-thing-is-bigger-than-both-of-us routine, to the irritation of her stiff husband (Nick Waring, channelling all that RN rigidity Coward both loved and guyed). Rosemary Ashe, another glorious comedienne, is a furiously snappish sister-in-law, and the divine Bednarczyk a treasurable drunk. Passion flares and collapses at Hay Fever speed.

 

WAYS AND MEANS is slyer, without music (a fair few of these squibs include a song) and finds Miranda Foster and Nick Waring a couple again, but many miles from the earnest doctor and housewife of Still Life. They’re spongers in a Cote d’Azur villa, of a class “brought up to be merely pleasant”, and now being thrown out by a sweetly steely hostess (Crowe again) to make room for the next guest . They’re flat broke owing to the Casino, and resentful of richer guests ( Ricketts this time a predatory Russian princess) Nice exasperated coupledom gives way to mild panic, and then an opportunistic piece of dastardliness, rather P.G.Wodehouse in a way, which one can only applaud.

 

The bed is changed (there is in each set of plays a elegantly deliberate and funny use of the fact that we watch the stage crew, especially where there is no interval, and Louie Whitemore’s set and Emily Stuart’s costumes are quite brilliant in their detail.) So at last the more problematic SHADOW PLAY ends the trio. I found it the weakest: Crowe this time is a betrayed wife, her husband asking for divorce (or so she fears). She is sinking into sleep with three pills and carried back – with more of those plaintively mawkish Coward love songs than elsewhere – into a tangled set of flashback dreams and memories of their ectstatic, if heavily clichéd, courtship and Venetian honeymoon. It is ahead of its time, indeed I felt as if Coward would rather it was a film, and somehow it failed to engage. But in fairness I should say that two of my companions on the long day were intrigued and pleased by it.

 

SET 3:  NUCLEAR FAMILIES

Three drawing-rooms in this set. The first FAMILY ALBUM sees a splendily stiff Victorian 1860s family group of five adult siblings , three of their spouses, and Bednarczyk as a magnificently decrepit and selectively deaf old family butler. They are all in deep old-fashioned mourning, most spectacularly Sara Crowe as the ageing, creaking, resentful Lavinia in half an acre of what must be that legendary fabric, black bombazine. Fuelled by sherry and Madeira they mourn the dead patriarch, who we rather suspect early on (and know later) was a bastard. Coward enjoys a bit of stiff retro naval chat about muzzle-loaders, and gradually the Victorian-photo stiffness of the group dissolves into first contumely, then childhood nostalgia as an old trunk is opened, and finally to creaking Lavinia’s drop-dead revelation and a butler moment to cherish in memory forever. It is a very funny one, this, but with streaks of real pain once more. Chekhov is never far from the edges of your mind in these plays, even when PG Wodehouse is nearer the centre…

 

HANDS ACROSS THE SEA, which follows it, suddenly reminds you in turn that Coward is also a literary ancestor of Ayckbourn. Another navy household, still recognizable today if you mix at all with the brisk, upper-middle professional Services and jolly-hockeysticks classes. Lady Maureen – “Piggie”, blithely entitled and carelessly, cruelly friendly, has been on a world trip and vaguely invited various Rawlinsons, or possibly Wadhursts, from Malaya. A couple turn up, amid a domestic-professional-social bustle of escaping officer husbands and a hilariously stage-stealing, booming, barking Rosemary Ashe as Piggie’s mate the Hon. Clare. The visitors are the wrong couple. They are terrified, cowed, and polite (Ian Hallard back in the Brylcreem). We get some of the best one-sided phone conversations on any stage ever, and Boadicea Ricketts as the most intimidatingly smug of parlourmaids. One wipes sweat from one’s brow, identifying with the timid planters and reflecting that there actually still are upper-middle households as terrifying as this to visit. Gorgeous.

 

THE ASTONISHED HEART is pure, overwrought romantic Coward, returning to the coup-de-foudre of Still Life mingled with a grimmer version of the the impossible relationship of Private Lives, and ending in real darkness. Nick Waring is a psychiatrist, his wife (Miranda Foster) struggling with honourable generosity, shows us a moving Coward attempt to rewrite the conventions of infidelity and pain. She wants to contain and understand the humanity of his sudden affair with her predatory, confused friend (Sara Crowe). The title is taken from Deuteronomy: “The LORD shall smite you with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart”. It is very moving.

ENVOI

The whole enterprise, in the tiny Jermyn Theatre, has involved weeks of intricate work, feats of learning astonishing even for actors , 89 costumes, brilliantly devised by Emily Stuart, and some items of furniture which must be making backstage a bit of an ordeal. And was it worth it? Oh yes.

 

Box office 0207 287 2875 jermynstreettheatre.co.uk to 20 May
rating four 4 Meece Rating
BUT

with an extra Stage Management Mouse for the crew   Stage Management Mouse resized
and Costume Mouse for the design and the rapid changes..

Costume design mouse resized

 

 

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THE MODERATE SOPRANO returns; Duke of York’s , WC1

MORE THAN A PICNIC

 

 

  I could tell you that it is worth going up West for the transfer of Hampstead’s fine play just to see Roger Allam (his fine quiff sadly suppressed under a bald wig) as John Christie, founder-owner of Glyndebourne’s opera house on the Sussex Downs, issuing one particular indignant horrified nod at the word “Mozart”.  The resulting explosion – absorbed with sphinx-like placidity by his German-Austrian musical hirelings    is one to cherish.  Christie, a small determined almost P.G.Wodehouse character,  has tasted the sublime in Wagner’s great unwieldy Parsifal.  So he finds Mozart “samey..bit jngly…no sense of the spirituaul..intrigue, silly girls and giggling and big wigs… it’s like playing cricket with a soft ball”. 

 

 

      I loved it at Hampstead,  found it a  “ heart-soaring, joyful and sad and humane piece” ,  its vindication of the picnic-rug and black-tie world of high class opera ws gorgeously unexpected from David Hare.   It was after he dramatized his jaundiced memories of a constipated 1962 public-school in  “South Downs” that the producer, Byam Shaw, suggested he take on the story of how John Christie, an eccentric wartime soldier and Eton science master, inherited the estate in the early ‘30s and decided to build an opera house and a festival. 

 

 

     The “moderate soprano” of the title is his wife, the singer Audrey Mildmay, who Christie  besieged with gifts and flowers until she married him: he was already fifty.   She died before him, leaving him bereft: her decline, and his nursing, book-end the play.     For the festival seasons he recruited Rudolf Bing, Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: its a memory-play of the interaction of those five determined characters.  

 

 

      Sometimes  it is very funny, at times profoundly sad.  For what Hare makes of John Christie’s story is not “heritage theatre” but a hymn to art and its ambiguities, an elegy for the  passing of life  and a portrait of a man self-willed,  choleric, impassioned.  Sometimes Captain Mainwaring, sometimes almost Eric Morecambe,  he is absurd but awe-inspiring,  a “character’ but also a deep and needy personality.    Roger Allam  is perfection: chubbed-up, in a bald wig, he becomes the bluff reckless middle-aged soldier who one night in Bayreuth discovered “the sublime – until I heard that music I had no idea who I was”.   Line upon line he delights:  “Hate music-lovers, awful people, do nothing but complain – but I love music!”. 

 

 

 With his team assembled and the first season coming,  Christie reacts with explosive horror to Bing and Busch telling him it can’t be Wagner – “you’ve built a jewel box, not an epic theatre”.    As for his furious insistence that opera-goers must wear boiled shirts and get on a train to  deep Sussex on a working day, it is superb, and nobody could deliver it like Allam.  These damn people  must, he says, not just fiddle around with “ telephones and whatever they do in offices” then ‘take in a show’.  They must accept “It’s their lives that are the sideshow!  Opera’s the thing! And if it uses up their time and wipes out their savings so be it!”.     

       Nancy Carroll is a perfect foil as Audrey, sinking her identity and her art in his explosive will, loving him,  her postwar decline tragic.  Paul Jesson and Anthony Calf react wonderfully as Busch and Ebert, and  this time round Jacob Fortune-Lloyd is a sinuous,  sardonic Viennese smoothie Rudolf Bing, the maestro who spent  war years working in Peter Jones, enjoying the hair salon because its febrile atmosphere was most like opera – “I love hysteria…Nietzsche said, for art there must be frenzy”.  

 

      The frenzy of a tubby, determined man with a yearning for sublimity receives, in this lovely play, the respect that it should.  And on a second viewing, with the same reservation as at Hampstead – which is simply about a slightly too slow first half –  other thoughts occur.  The elegiac quality seems stronger: Audrey’s last moments, and his late sadness, are truly wrenching.   And it makes sense at last that David Hare, never knowingly under-socialist, should have written it.  Art has no politics, and while opera  needs the money of the rich,  it is in essence not upper-class:   just sublimely human.

box office   atgtickets.com  0844 871 7627

to 30 June

rating four    4 Meece Rating

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BAT OUT OF HELL Dominion, W1

BAT’S BACK…

 

     In a remarkably quick return after its Coliseum outing , Jim Steinman’s barmy musical is storming onto the Tottenham Court Road, rocking on.  Few cast changes – we still have the rockstarry Polec, a fair curly-headed manic figure  looking like Fotherington-Thomas gone to the dark side,   and Christina Bennington as the rebellious Raven;  we still  the choreography by Emma Portner and the rowdy, explosive, shape-shifting set by Jon Bausor.   And it’s even louder than at the Coliseum.

      I still love it.  I stand by my earlier review here – on a very hot summer night I still offer it my throat, as per wolf.  

     https://theatrecat.com/2017/06/21/bat-out-of-hell-london-coliseum-wc1/

Even though chaos on the trains on press night  meant I had to flee before the second half…

    

     But it has been brought to my notice that some critical voices I respect really don’t like it.  So here are a few reasons I do..

  • Because Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton are hilarious as the heroine’s parents , first in their furious “Who needs the Young” song,  then unforgettably in the onstage Cadillac rendering of “Paradise by Dashboard light”.  Surely you gotta love a youthy rock gig where the middle-aged steal the scene?
  • Because Danielle Steers delivers : “I won’t do that”  in something approximating a solid gold blues baritone
  • Because of the bit where the motorbike explodes
  • Because Jim Steinman’s lyrics are among the best expressions of rock’n’roll rebellion ever written,  while managing to be ironic with it
  • Because of the ensemble movement.   Wild yet daft.
  • And the plot:   plain daft, based on Peter Pan while remaining the least J.M.Barrie show imaginable
  • Because come on –  if you’re going to do a ridiculous jukebox musical,  the city which has embraced the vapidly ghastly Mamma Mia for years on end deserves a better break.  

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