Monday, 6 June 2011

Shrek the Musical

It is hard to find a living breathing human in this world who does not love or at least like Shrek - correct me if I'm wrong- So the idea of the musical version coming to the west end was exciting news to me  I must admit. I booked the tickets with mindless optimism even after knowing it had only survived for a rather disappointing 12 months on Broadway after receiving some rather Luke warm reviews.

Entering the Royal Drury lane I sensed that those around me were just as excited, some sporting ogre eared headbands and others having their picture taken with the giant sparking green S in the foyer. Now I am sure you have prepared yourself to read yet another cruel and heartless would be correct, however I will start with the positives so not to be so spineless.

The set itself was flawless, the set and costume designers must have had a field day creating this fairy tale land , it really did feel as if we were seeing a carbon copy of the movie. The costumes were exact replicas of those in the original DreamWorks film and were dazzling under all of the stage lights. Some great puppetry work can also be seen; puppeteers who had spent months on recreating the dragon from the movie did so with great success as, again, it looked exactly like the dragon from the film. I was also pleasantly surprised by the performance of Amanda Holden who played Princess Fiona, her tom boyish wit mixed with her longing princess charm echoed that of Diaz's performance in the film. At times her American accent was a bit shaky, but generally quite impressive as well as some surprisingly good dancing and singing skills- which received copious amounts of applause from the audience.

I’m sure I will be spurned for saying this by those who I went to see the performance with but I really didn’t think Nigel Harman’s performance of Lord Farquaad was that amusing. He had the comic aid of two miniature puppet legs while he was bending on his knees performing- but this (in my opinion) was his only saving grace and I was not that amused , although every other audience member seemed to find this explosively funny. His performance did not quite match up to the evil genius of John Lithgow’s interpretation. But that was the very problem with the entire production, the cast were under a lot of pressure in recreating the epic characters of the DreamWorks film- posing the question, how necessary was it for the musical to be made- if we want to watch true shrekiful perfection we would just pop on the DVD.

The songs in the musical were far from awe inspiring and were definitely not memorable , with lyrics like 'Salisbury steak you, I’ll frosted flake you, I’ll patty cake you, My donkey pot pie' I think you get the idea and no more needs to be said on the matter.

Shrek and Donkey- now really I am leaving the worst to last- but how could anyone live up to the standards created by comic masters Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers?? Richard Blackwood’s donkey really did fall short, his performance was flat and all together quite boring to watch- he sounded more like an unenthusiastic will smith than a rib crackingly hilarious Murphy. This for me was the most disappointing element of all, I am a huge donkey fan - he is the reason I absolutely love shrek, but Blackwood seemed to throw all the comic lines away and his scenes with Shrek (which are comic gold in the film) bought down the whole performance and generally left a sour taste in my mouth. Shrek (Nigel Lindsay) at times was quite comical, and his scottish accent was average- but it really felt like he had other places to be , he showed no enthusiasm of the character at all, again another case of a flat performance- he was a showstopper, but not in the positive sense of the word; when he was on stage alone the performance became so slow that it almost halted completely.

If you have less of a critical eye then me and enjoy sparkling lights and underperformed comedy the I implore you to book a ticket. But if you want the greatness of shrek to remained untainted then stay well away!!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

In a forest dark so deep

In a forest, however, not so dark and definitely not so deep.

Neil Labute tries to portray a harrowing and at times somewhat incestuous sibling relationship and rivalry, however his attempt falls short as their constant bickering over the on hundred minute period becomes very tedious, irritating and rather cringe worthy. One moment in particular which I found almost unbearable to watch; (Matthew fox) brother to Olivia Williams character; Bobby, who we are led to believe is an uneducated hick , and Williams herself partake in a rather stilted 5 minutes of air guitar to pearl jam, lacking humour I can only be led to believe that scene existed merely to fill the time.

The play starts intriguingly enough and the set was actually rather fantastic, the entire play takes place in a log cabin in the American outback. We are introduced to sister Betty (Williams) , a pedantic and neurotic dean of a liberal arts college.  She  is attempting to pack up the cabin to move out books and other items left by a student tenant and thus requires assistance from somewhat estranged brother Bobby, as  he owns a van. Betty, married with two kids, is a self-conscious intellectual while Bobby appears to be a crude philistine who at one point asks if the tenant was gay because he reads the New Yorker and has posed pictures of himself. As the unpacking continues after some initial high pitched quarrelling and bickering , Bobby discovers a rather compromising and incriminating  picture of Betty and the student holding each other all assumptions and previous quarrels are put on a back burner.

La Bute is obviously attempting to create a high state of tension but the story is revealed at an alarmingly quick pace with one level of reaction from both characters, both Williams and Fox chose to scream and shout their way through the entire performance, at times I found myself peering at my watch praying there would be an interval for my ear drums to rest, however the performance ran without an interval and therefore my poor ears were forced to suffer such torture.

Perhaps it is only fair for me to award Fox with some credit as he was at times convincing as the tough, hick and brute of a brother but it was made easier by the fact that his native accent is American. However, Williams really struggled to keep up a convincing American twang; in her high pitched screeches it wasn't hard to see her slip ups.

Labute is trying to express a sense of unrelenting truth and the sin of immorality to his audience, yet once again this is lost entirely in a warbling and unnecessary back log of dialogue, which at peak moments became rather mind numbing. I was also confused as to whether we were supposed to see glimmers of an incestuous relationship between the siblings; at one moment Fox grabs Williams in a lustful manner but yet again the wailing and screeching created by Williams blurred that entire concept.

It is a shame to see such great actors crumble at the feet of such a terribly written stage play, what is revealed could have been uncovered in twenty minutes yet was dragged out for what seemed like a life time of an hour and a half.

Apologies for the brutal honesty but take this as a warning, do not waste your hard earned cash on this performance.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A flea in her ear - Georges Feydeau

A fabulous, flirty , flighty and fantastic farce-A flea in her ear- John Mortimer’s version of Feydeaus classic 'Comedy of Errors' shines at the Old Vic directed by Richard Eyre.

The story line is one typical of the comedy of errors genre- in that everything goes wrong so beautifully! The wonderfully loveable yet pompous Monsieur Chanderbise (Tom Hollander) is wrongly accused of infidelity by his suspicious and highly strung wife and her neurotic and highly humorous school friend who decides to write a fairly sexually charged letter on pink and perfumed paper from an admirer (an old fashioned Babooshka) in order to trick Chanderbise. Receiving the letter in delight but confusion he shows the letter to his friend (John Marquez) the fiery Spanish steed and husband of Raymondes school friend, he immediately recognises his wife’s writing and is incensed by her request to meet him at notorious French boudoir hotel comically titled the Hotel Coq d'or . With a series of miscommunications due to notorious lady’s man( Jonathan Cake) , meddlesome maids and the mildly irritating speech impediment of young  ( Freddie fox)- all head toward the Coq d'or for revenge, secret love affairs and revelations. They are greeted by a rather camp and fantastically comical ex military proprietor (Lloyd Hutchinson) and his jolly and jovial wife - and the confusion and delirium begin. It’s played here in a beautifully mounting delirium of split-second synchronicities and many misunderstandings; the hilarity is heightened by the wit of Rob Howell's decadent Art Nouveau set which consists of revolving beds and highly crass gold plated furniture. The confusions are increased by the fact that Poche, the hotel's drunken porter, turns out to be the spitting image of the upright Chandebise. In a dual role that involves lightning switches and costume change to show his two identities, the greatly talented Tom Hollander is wonderfully engaging both as the cockney cheeky poche and the rather timid and confused Chanderbise- Poche is mistaken to be Chanderbise and he is declared to be a mad raving drunk by the charmingly devious doctor and devilish lothario (Jonathan Cake).

All performances deliver the correct amount of caricature and enough humour to leave your eyes watering.

 A thoroughly enjoyable and deliciously delectable performance.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Love story -7,12,10

Love story-

Love story at the Duchess Theatre, Covent garden a story well known and loved about two students who fall madly in love and marry , disregarding their parents views and defying social expectation- which eventually ends in tragedy-miraculously seemed to be devoid of love and of a story after a botched adaptation by Stephen Clark .

I was thoroughly looking forward to this adaption of Erich Segals 'Love story' , and yet instead of the sickly sweet emotions experienced each time I watch the film - I was instead left with a rather bitter taste in my mouth.

As always at the beginning of a performance I take note of the set- in this case it was a very vacuous (mirroring the atmosphere created by the performers) white space inclusive of the Orchestra on stage visible to the audience. Which from my extensive A-level and University training I recognised to be quite Brechtian , 'rejection of historic realism'- ie we are aware we are witnessing a play as the technical elements of the performance are seen . Perhaps director Rachel Kavanaugh wanted to remind us that it was all only a play to save us from such a disastrous performance. It may be that I am being too critical as my sister along with the sniffling middle aged man next to me were left in floods of tears in the finale.

However I found myself unmoved by the whole thing- although I must admit some of  the pointless songs composed by Howard Goodall did remain with me for the rest of the evening- such as the rather confusing song in the middle of the play describing pasta dishes.

I believe the talents of the actors were lost within the writing and adaptation of the beloved tale by Stephen Clark. It was obvious to see that the majority of the actors possessed talent - in particular female protagonist Emma Williams ( Jenny Cavilleri) , whose ballsy and upbeat interpretation of the character (originally played by Ally MacGraw in the film ) almost bought an emotional touch to the performance, but unfortunately her efforts were overshadowed by a clumsy attempt at jock come 'preppy' intellectual Oliver Barret the 6th played by Michael Xavier.  His desperate attempt created  a nervous atmosphere and his love for Williams was far from believable, the creation of their relationship was rushed and appeared to be detached.

I was hoping that the play was going to improve in the second half, only to find that the play was ending  and the cast were preparing to take their final bows. Although previously hopeful that the performance would reach a crescendo after the interval I was actually relieved that it was all over- as I was beginning to fall asleep on to the person next to me, and had become one of the dreaded sweet rustlers out of sheer boredom.

So ..a disappointment but an experience all the same -a warning to all of those who have rushed to the box office to buy tickets, it is far from the success that the film version was.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

.45-Hampstead Theatre

Fresh from Hampstead theatre I feel compelled to express my views about Gary Lennon's sexually charged '.45'. The intimate environment is created immediately due to the small and 'living room' style space of the Michael Frayn downstairs studio of Hampstead theatre- the space really allows the spectator to become a fly on the wall and experience the sheer heat that is created by Lennons intriguing and enigmatic characters. We are shown a glimpse of  Hells Kitchen New York 1977, created by a dirty and decrepit apartment set and accompanied by a soundtrack evocative of the New York Punk Rock era. The cast were truly brilliant - consisting of femme fatale Pat , played exquisitely by The Tudor's Natalie Dormer, Dormer evokes a great sense of heroism- she is both strong and dominant yet we are able to see the flickers of a tormented human, Pat is fatally attracted to the poisonous Ed ( Daniel Caltagirone) who plays the 'thug' flawlessly, mixing both sexual tension and violence to create a character that you can both fear and be intrigued and almost attracted by. The couples chemistry is so life like that it you become directly effected by the violence, passion and betrayal experienced in their relationship throughout the progression of the performance.

Disturbing the sexual tension from the beginning is feisty , punk rocker lesbian and best friend of Pat , Vic (Katie Wimpenny) . Wimpenny brings a cheeky, adolescent and infectious character to the stage to dilute the tense and steamy atmosphere. Vic is in love with Pat and is desperate to remove her from her mercurial and violent relationship. Vic along with other best friend Reilley ( Chris Reilly) provide light relief in the intensely heated atmosphere created by Dormer and Caltagirone.

The broad NY accents of the protagonists are flawless along with their performances, however the perfection of the performance was broken due to the entrance of a rather miscast estranged psychiatrist Kat ( Emma Powell) whose entrance seemed to remind me of the fourth wall in front of me, her first scene broke the ever growing tension that was so brilliantly created by the other actors, and her weak attempt at an American accent began to destroy my illusion of Hells Kitchen -which prior to her entrance was extremely vivid and realistic. Her supposed sexual relationship with Pat  seemed forced and awkward- and only further showed the talents of Dormer in her ability to react to such a flat performance.

However the powerful relationships and interactions created by the actors and beautiful writing shone through and made the play a real must see and a truly memorable performance!

Hats off to director Wilson Milam for creating a wonderfully entertaining show.