Review: Parade, London Theatre Workshop

“Not much survives of the old hills of Georgia

Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade is a brutally effective piece of musical theatre, based on a harrowing turn-of-the-century true story of racism and anti-Semitism, child-murder and mob mentality, set to a wide-ranging and often challenging score. Last seen in London at the Southwark Playhouse, Fulham’s London Theatre Workshop go for another small-scale staging, directed by Jody Tranter, the intimacy of which again plays to the strength of the piece. 

Bringing a 13-strong company into such a small space is something of a challenge but a necessary one in order give the real sense of the full scope of a community at odds with each other. Tranter manages it well though with a fluid sense of pace swirling around Harry Johnson and Justin Williams’ inventive set design and ably assisted by some ingeniously conceived choreography from Adam Scown, bringing a real intricate power to the ensemble numbers. Continue reading “Review: Parade, London Theatre Workshop”

Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse

“Everyone’s here from the UK but it’s always the Cotswolds or Scotland or something so nice to have an actual…we’re moving back there you see” 

What is it that draws writers to adaptation? Anya Reiss’ extraordinary debut of two cracking plays for the Royal Court has been followed by versions of 2 Chekhovs and Wedekind’s Spring Awakening for Headlong which is currently touring. The first Chekhov saw The Seagull transplanted to a modern day Isle of Man for the Southwark Playhouse and now for the same theatre, she has tackled Three Sisters which is located “near a British Embassy, overseas, now”.

Which is all very well but in a play that is predicated on the desire to return home, there appears to be no earthly reason why any of the Prozorova sisters – the modern women that they are here – can’t just book the next flight to the London they left just over a decade ago. Instead they languish in the non-specific country suggested to be somewhere we might have recently invaded, where their father served as a diplomat until his death, stuck because he sold their old family home. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Titanic, Southwark Playhouse

“Possibly she won’t go down 
Possibly she’ll stay afloat
Possibly all this could come to an end
On a positive note…”

Between them, producer Danielle Tarento and director Thom Southerland have been responsible for some of London’s best small-scale musical revivals of recent years, so it was with interest that their production of the 1997 show Titanic was announced as the Southwark Playhouse’s first musical in its new premises. It won Tony Awards though little critical favour on Broadway, yet timed itself well to ride on the coat-tails of the extraordinary success of James Cameron’s film of the same story which opened some six months later. And as such an enduringly popular tale, Maury Yeston’s music and lyrics and Peter Stone’s book thus have much to battle against to make its own mark.

Based on real passengers and the accounts of survivors, Stone’s book focuses in on a number of couples travelling in different parts of the boat, which means that the emphasis lands heavily on the class divisions onboard. A decent decision one might think but in populating the worlds of first class, second class and third class, all within the first half, the show already feels doomed to sink. There’s just simply too many characters for us to process, never mind genuinely empathise with, and though a hard-working ensemble strive excellently to differentiate their various characters (with some surely sterling backstage help) it does take a while to be entirely sure who is who. Continue reading “Review: Titanic, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Remains of the Day, Union Theatre

“Is it foolish to wait for the day that will never come”

You have to admire the ambition currently on display at the Union Theatre. Writing a new musical is hard enough at the best of times, but when your source material is a Booker-Prize-winning novel which has already had a much loved film adaptation made, then there’s quite a challenge ahead. But that is what Alex Loveless has taken on with his adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.

Telling the story of Stevens in post WWII England, a long-serving butler to the late Lord Darlington who is struggling to deal with his new American employer, he identifies the solution as being retrieving a former colleague from Cornwall, Miss Kenton. As he sets off on a road-trip to try and persuade her, he also goes on a journey through his memories of the inter-war period where we discover that his employer was uncomfortably sympathetic to the Nazis and that his relationship with Miss Kenton ran far far deeper than that of just butler and housekeeper. Continue reading “Review: The Remains of the Day, Union Theatre”