is a freely fictionalised
Seurat, the pointillist painter who died young and unappreciated in
and Lapine's 1984 musical shows him at work, principally on Un
dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte.
His sketches, much enlarged, sit on easels and form the only
characters – all sorts and conditions – are brought to life and
given a backstory, as George tries to capture
the casual chaos of a suburban park – on an island in the middle of
a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole,
through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony."
a slightly forced coda, we fast-forward to the present – well,
1984, with some lovely fashions – in which George's great
grandson, also an artist, unveils an installation paying tribute
to the original painting, and later takes it to the now deserted
island, where he meets the ghost of Dot, the painter's model and
muse, as the blank canvas is gradually peopled by the figures
from the past.
Chissick's evocative production uses the moving easels very
effectively – they are internally lit for the C20 “Chromolume”
– and the lighting, as it must, helps to paint the pictures.
fantastic cast, none older than 21, copes brilliantly with the subtle
characterization and the very tricky Sondheim score. Especially
effective musical moments are the pointillist underscore for “Colour
and Light”, and the choral ensembles for the tableaux. Musical
a chamber ensemble from the keyboard, above and behind the action.
Josling makes a compelling George, splendidly
moving in his soliloquies, dealing with his detractors and, in the
opening sequence, trying to persuade his Dot to pose properly.
sung beautifully by Laura Barnard, who also brings a frail sincerity
to the elderly Marie [Dot's daughter and ex Floradora girl] in New
York, reading the great man's biography from cue cards.
the other colourful characters – the two Celestes and their soldier
beaux, the rude
boys, the American tourists – Lucy Carter stands out as the Nurse
to Eloise Kenny-Ryder's Old Lady, as does Matt Pettifor's truculent
Boatman, with his eye-patch and his dog, also done as a canvas
sketch. Adam Johnson gives an assured, and very amusing, performance
as rival artist and caustic critic Jules, while
brings an engaging warmth to Louis the Baker, Dot's eventual husband.
very welcome Sondheim revival is just one of four NYMT shows this
summer. It deserves a much longer run than this, but we can be sure
that at least some of these talented young performers will be back,
gracing the musical theatre scene in years to come.
Dream to add to the pantheon, to join the “bathroom accessories”
and the “30s
both from Shakespeare's Globe.
theme this time is fairground. It works perfectly in this space,
renowned for its chamber Shakespeare in an immersive style.
up, roll up ...” from the foyer, where you're encouraged to pin the
tail on the donkey's bottom, to the intimate performance area,
hymn on the calliope],
where there's inflatable hoopla and a card trick in
Verona meets Athens.
the main event gets underway, the gimmicks are reined in, with little
details – the candyfloss, the inflatable dainty ducks, the
goldfish-in-a-bag lanthorn – to bring us back to Dreamland, the
name picked out in fairy lights over the water.
Pearson, who has years of experience of bringing the Bard to life
within these walls, gives us a lively, physical and very entertaining
Dream. The grouping is perfectly planned, the rehearsal sequence
wickedly observed. The mischief in the wood is lively and often very
funny, the boys wrestling on the forest floor as the girls spar
verbally. Theseus and Hippolyta dance cheek to cheek, the
lovers sleep on the further shore, which does seem a little less
involving after the proximity of the Mechanicals and Titania's bower.
cast of eight, with much doubling. Not just the obvious
[Cindy-Jane Armbruster] and Theseus/Oberon [beautifully spoken by Ian
but Robert Hazle, impressive both as an aggrieved Egeus and a fussy
Quince, Rhiannon Sommers as Hermia, eloping with her luggage, and a
shy Snug, hiding behind her buoyancy-aid
casual in a tee-shirt, as well as Starveling,
Clark Alexander Demetrius, formal in a collar and tie, as well as a
hilarious Thisby. His Pyramus – their death scene endlessly
inventive – is Sydney Aldridge, pulling off the tricky double of
Helena, comfort eating when the course of true love runs less than
smooth, and Nicky Bottom, done as a sulky teen diva, slurping a
slushy, chomping on a carrot as she recalls her dream. A triumph in
the role, the most memorable female Bottom since Dawn French's
wartime Dream of 2001. Equally engaging is Elinor Machen-Fortune's
Puck; she's also an officious Philostrate, introducing the interlude
and the Bergamasque jig, before coming back as Robin Goodfellow to
bid us goodnight.
audience is frequently drawn in to the action – as confidants,
and, in the case of front-row Ricky, to play a very convincing Wall.
his new company Unfolds Theatre, producer
Pepe Pryke has
brought to Shakespeare's Bankside an enchanting summer show for all
the family – “swift
as a shadow, short as any dream...”
magical, enchanting Peter
to follow James
and the Giant Peach
in the Willows
onto the Mercury stage in the long vacation slot.
just another attempt at the increasingly popular summertime panto,
but an adaptation, by Daniel Buckroyd and Matthew Cullum (who
also shared directing duties),
which manages to seem fresh and child-friendly while still respecting
J M Barrie's original.
nursery furniture is shrouded in dust-sheets as we arrive. Simon
Kenny's set is uncluttered and inventive, shape-shifting to the
Neverland island and the deck of the pirate ship. Drawers pull out to
form beds, the crocodile is suggested by a pair of headlamp eyes
before making its spectacular final appearance.
story – quite complex for the youngest minds – is bookended by a
prologue and an epilogue in which the actors tell the story in the
time-honoured Nicholas Nickleby style. Their
boisterous play foreshadows adventures to come (except perhaps for
the farting teddy-bear).They
are musicians too, and apart from Wendy (Charlotte
and Peter, play multiple roles. This doubling is very slickly done –
the performers rarely leave the stage altogether – and is often
part of the entertainment; the Lost Boys are picked off one by one
only to re-enter moments later to swell the pirate band. Particularly
impressive character work from James Peake as Nana, a convincing
canine in fur coat and flying helmet, as well as Cecco the pirate and
the know-it-all Slightly Soiled, and
as a feisty fairy Tinkerbell and a peg-leg pirate Jukes.
himself is played by Emilio Iannucci, a winning blend of innocence
and bravado, and Pete Ashmore, a familiar face on the Mercury stage,
takes on the traditional pairing of Mr Darling and Captain Hook. Not
your average old Etonian, maybe, despite his dying words, but he
handles his cod-Shakespeare convincingly.
do believe in fairies,” whispered one little girl in our row, in a
moment of unprompted empathy. The
production is aimed squarely at children, as is only right, though
there were subtleties to satisfy the most jaded adult palate, and the
ingenious costume and scene changes help to maintain our interest.
All the magic is that special theatrical kind, where our imagination
is willingly co-opted to do half the work. Tinkerbell dances
light on the end of a long wand; Curly's kite is attached to a stick.
And, though there's no
Kirby, no Foy, the flying sequences are thrillingly done in the
simplest way possible.
is very pleasing to
see several editions of the book on offer amongst the crocodile
merchandise. And of
course, as Barrie intended, the
benefit the beleaguered Great Ormond Street Hospital.
sad and the sinister are not neglected: Peter's unwillingness to be
touched, or the “tragedy” of the ending, in which Wendy's
daughter assumes her role as mother to Peter and the Lost Boys.
Reeday's music underpins the action – there are few big numbers –
and it's fun to see the flute, the tuba and two violins shared
amongst the colourful characters.
final tableau sees Peter framed in the window, still looking out
beyond the stars to the Neverland, before the braver children in the
audience are allowed to explore the nursery for themselves, try out
the beds and peek into the delightful dolls' house where Peter's
shadow was hidden.
Shakespeare's Telling Tales at the
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Morpurgo's short story about musicians who survived the concentration
camps of the Holocaust comes to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker
Playhouse, with the master story-teller in person reading the role of
Paolo Levi, who shares
his memories over the mint tea, and
Alison Reid covering
the cub reporter and a host of other characters.
unique presentation is made really special by the presence of four
music stands, each with candles, for string quartet The
Storyteller's Ensemble, who punctuate the narrative with appropriate
musical offerings. They are fronted by the outstanding violinist
Daniel Pioro, playing the music that made the fictional fiddler a
household name. - “the most famous musician on the planet”.
there's spirited, witty Vivaldi for Venice, Bach for Benjamin
Horowitz the veteran busker, a seductive Czardas, Lascia ch'io
pianga, and plenty of Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for the Camp,
and, as a finale, a concerto movement representing Levi's 60th
Birthday Concert on the South Bank, with a heartfelt cadenza from
Pioro. And not to forget the Quartettsatz for Scissors, conducted
with a comb, an early memory of the barber's shop behind
perfect blend of words and music, made more memorable by the
candle-light and the wonderful acoustic. It deserves a longer, better
publicised run – the 2018/2019 Winter Season, perhaps.
one of Michael Foreman's illustrations for the original book
Kinky Boots, Cage aux Folles, and, surely his finest hour, Torch Song
Trilogy, memorably done on this stage back in 2001.
Valentina is a newer piece, though it does revisit those favourite
Fierstein themes. Based on the
legendary Casa Susanna, it takes us back to the days – the early
Sixties – when cross-dressing was still a crime in many US states,
and a weekend retreat resort in the Catskills was a dream come true
for these “self-made women”.
dream turns to nightmare after the interval, when politics takes over
from prosthetics, and
callow newbie “Miranda” [an excellent Jesse James Lamb] flees
back to the closet.
Segeth's production has an evocative period set, on two levels,
carefully lit [Jack
And a very strong cast, beautifully
turned out in their femme frocks.
Smith is “Valentina”, facing the uncertain future of his
supported by his wife, the only GG [genuine girl] in residence. This
play is the story of their marriage, too, and the final moments are
almost unbearably poignant:
George sheds his masculine skin to the Everlys' Let It Be Me, as Rita
[touchingly played by Rachel Curren] stands confused and alone on the
stage above him.
is much fun and silliness too – the Wildean contributions of the
outrageous “Bessie” [Dave Hawkes], and
Sugar Time routine, where the faces of the wallflowers
tell their own story: there's
Terry Cramphorn's veteran Theodore, who
refuge in gay bars,listening
Willingham's Michael, who invited the
new boy, and whose put-down of “Charlotte” is one of several
powerful monologues in the piece - “Bessie”'s
uncharacteristically melancholy musings on his marriage are
darker ending is down largelyto
Barry Taylor's “Charlotte”,
a determined activist who will stop at nothing to sign Valentina's
guests up to her Sorority. The scene between Taylor and Peter Jeary's
stepping into “Amy”'s size 10s at a week's notice)
is a dramatic masterpiece, and sets the tone for the end of the play,
where an icy appearance by the Judge's unsympathetic daughter
[Catherine Kenton] reminds us of just how different attitudes were
half a century ago.
superb production of a fascinating piece – a fine note on which to
end a successful season for CTW.