Review: Xanadu, Southwark Playhouse

“This is like children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay people” 

There’s something almost rather brazen about the way in Paul Warwick Griffin’s production of Xanadu fully embraces its highly camp nature and pushes it even further over the edge, highlighting its naffness and daring us to call its bluff. From the tongue-in-cheek manner in which Greek mythological creatures wind their way onto the stage in Morgan Large’s design to the completely rough-around-the-edges approach to delivering much of Nathan M Wright’s (earthbound) dance moves – it’s a whole lot of frothy nonsense but nonetheless, always enjoyable hokum. 

Because what sells the show is just how good the good bits are. The roller-choreography is excellently done and as its key exponent, Carly Anderson is just brilliant as Kira/Clio. On roller-skates more often than she is not, she floats ethereally in and around the stage like the goddess she is, descending to Venice Beach to inspire cutely musclebound Sonny to fulfil his artistic dream of opening a roller disco. Her human form takes a hilariously broad Australian accent and Anderson milks this expertly for all its comic potential as well as sounding like a dream when singing.

Samuel Edwards’ Sonny is most appealing too – not just due to his mesmerising thighs but because he gets his earnestness just right. And around this increasingly romantic couple between whom love is forbidden by Zeus are the rest of Clio’s sisters, the other muses whose numbers are made up by anyone they can get their hands on – girls, boys, band members… Chief among them is Alison Jiear’s powerfully voiced Melpomene and as a scene-stealing comic triumph, Lizzy Connolly’s Calliope whose facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission. 

Douglas Carter Beane’s highly self-referential book packs in meta-theatrical jokes alongside references to the original 1980 film and Clash of the Titans too whilst always keeping the tone candy-floss light. And this forms the perfect backdrop for the Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra songs that make up the soundtrack, now bolstered by ‘Physical’ too in case things weren’t camp enough already under Andrew Bevis’ astute musical direction. Hugely over-the-top but hilarious with it, long may those neon lights shine. 

Running time: 2 hours (with interval) 
Photo: Paul Coltas
Booking until 22nd November

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