Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home

As a piece of digital theatre, Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard in Concert plays excitingly with the possibilities of this developing form 

“There’s nothing else – just us and these cameras”

Damned if do, damned if you don’t. Curve Leicester boldly took steps in the autumn to reimagine their auditorium in order to be able to mount a post-Lockdown #1 season of socially-distanced concert performances of previous hits. The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic and the dance of the tiers put paid to those plans, even as technical rehearsals had already started but in a move that would please Norma Desmond herself, Sunset Boulevard in Concert has still found its way to the spotlight.

Nikolai Foster’s reconception of his initial adaptation of his original production sees him lean heavily into Sunset Boulevard’s cinematic origins, taking full advantage of the lack of audience to ditch the traditional notions of semi-staged concerts and create an inventive fusion of theatre and film. And with those restraints fully loosed, this production unfurls across every inch of the auditorium – Norma first appears from the back of the circle, Joe’s rooms are tucked into the fly tower, the ensemble watch impassively from the empty seats in an almost Brechtian manner of observation.

And that sense of being up close and personal really has the effect of immersing you in Norma’s delusion, Ria Jones’ strident take on the character is cleverly worked. Supported by excellent work from Danny Mac as the differently delusional Joe, Molly Lynch’s superbly characterised Betty and Adam Pearce’s magnificently looming Max, the shift into hybrid is seamlessly done and ultimately feels like a natural progression for the form, particularly for this production. In a moment when so much is uncertain, it really is a marvel that something creatively interesting as this could emerge.

Photos: Marc Brenner

 

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