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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Skellern’

Though I’ve seen most of Pedro Almodovar’s later films, I haven’t seen the one on which this musical is based, so I came to it cold. Sadly, I left it a bit cold too.

The story revolves around serial lover Ivan, his most recent Pepa, his ex Lucia and his new flame Paulina. Lucia is still pursuing him through the courts almost twenty years on and Paulina is her lawyer. Pepa is obtaining advice from Paulina for her neurotic model friend Candella who has come under the spell of terrorist Malik. Ivan & Lucia’s son Carlos is engaged to Marisa but takes a shine to Candella (like father, like son). It’s a quirky black comedy.

Most of David Yazbek’s songs have a Spanish flavour. They’re OK, but the score isn’t really good enough for a full-blown West End show. The narrative moves along apace and there are a fair few laughs, but it doesn’t fizz and sparkle. The biggest question for me is what is the point of a musical adaptation in the first place? It doesn’t seem to add or illuminate anything. It all seemed to be a bit flat and even though its in previews and beset by cast illness, it’s hard to see what could be done to breathe life into it. It flopped on Broadway four years ago, so what made them think they could turn that around here?

Both Tamsin Greig (Pepa) and Willemjin Verkaik (Paulina) were ill on the night I went, but their covers, Rebecca McKinnis and Holly James respectively, acquitted themselves well, so I don’t think that contributed to my disappointment. I was impressed most by Anna Skellern as Candella and Ricardo Afonso as Taxi Driver, a sort of narrator, and I liked Haydn Gwynne as Lucia. Michael Matus, a fine musical performer, is wasted in his small roles. Anthony Ward’s day glo two-tier set is fun and facilities speedy changes of location.

I didn’t dislike it, I wasn’t bored by it, but it didn’t capture my imagination and I left feeling indifferent I’m afraid.

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This is a stage adaptation of an autobiographical book, published posthumously, by an Australian man who died of AIDS. Seeing it now, 15 years after the final events it portrays adds a historical perspective to a very personal story.

It’s a a love story which has two very different halves – the first a very funny and rather charming tale of a 15-year relationship from teens to late 20’s and the second the very sad and deeply moving story of the final years until one died of AIDS eight years later.

You can tell that Matt Zeremes as Tim and Guy Edmonds as John have played these roles on-and-off for four years because they seem to inhabit their characters and have real chemistry between them. Four other actors (Kath & Kim’s Jane Turner, musicals man Simon Burke, Oliver Farnsworth and Anna Skellern) play all of the other roles – up to 15 each – with huge versatility and brio. Jane Turner, in particular, can change characters of different sex and age with just a quick wig change! David Berthold’s fast paced staging allows them to cover much ground whilst still developing the characters and without trivialising the story.

Though I haven’t read Timothy Conigrave’s book, he was clearly very frank and seems to have been rather hard on himself. Tommy Murphy’s play tells a very moving, sad and timeless love story with much humour and little sentimentality and still manages to look back to this extraordinary period in social history objectively.

You’ll laugh out loud at the outrageous and often rude frankness, but you’ll probably shed a tear in the end. I found it a very rewarding evening in the theatre.

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