Too Close To The Sun is a new musical which looks at the final days of the life of Ernest Hemingway before he committed suicide and makes up some things that might have happened then. Set in an isolated part of Idaho, Hemingway lives with his wife and his slutty secretary, when an old friend Rex de Havilland comes to visit with the intention of convincing the writer to sell the film rights to his life. Sounds like fun eh, well you don’t even know the half of it!
It is difficult to know where to start, there were just so many terrible elements to this thing. The songs were simply horrific: not a tune in sight and just the weirdest progressions, I don’t think any of them actually contained a chorus, it was kind of like twisted musical freestyling combined with verbal diarrhoea. I have to say that the two women, Helen Dallimore and Tammy Joelle, did their best with the material and at least had strong voices, but the two gentlemen, James Graeme and Jay Benedict, were just jaw-droppingly bad. They were landed with the worst songs for the most part, but their delivery was just so bad, that I struggled to keep a straight face any time either one opened their mouth to sing (which given I was on the front row, was a real trial). There was no sense of integration between the play and the songs at all, quite often they would just pop up and then disappear as quickly, leaving you dumbfounded.
Not even the story could save this either though. It is just chronically bad, and this was crystallised for me in the exchange between the two ladies about blue cheese and hot sauce: it went on forever and ended somewhat cryptically with Dallimore saying “I don’t trust that pirate girl”.
Perhaps as a portent of the play’s prospects, I witnessed one of the funniest things I have seen on the stage in quite some time, a genuine blooper. Midway through the first half, two of the cast members sat on a wicker table and went right through it, they quickly extricated themselves and carried on regardless, but soon lost it completely when a line something along the lines of “came down like a ton of bricks” was uttered and there was some serious corpsing going on for a few minutes. We were then treated to repeated references and jokes about the table for the rest of the first half, as many things had to be altered due to the table being altered. They should probably work this in to the actual play, God knows we needed the comic relief.
Too Close To The Sun truly is a treat: it is so bad that it is unbelievably good fun to watch, you just cannot believe that it is being performed in the West End. Catch it quickly before it is snuffed out!