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Posts Tagged ‘Ash Hunter’

Another stage adaptation of a book I haven’t read, Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel, in a version by Emma Rice for her company Wise Children. It’s quite a challenge given it’s a relatively complex tale covering three generations of two families. I felt it succeeded in part, though fell short of Rice’s best work.

It starts brilliantly with a storm, during which Lockwood visits Heathcliff, his landlord, at his moorland home Wuthering Heights. One of Rice’s inspired moves is to make the moors themselves a chorus. From here we are told about the entangled lives of both the Earnshaws, their children Hindley & Catherine and adopted orphan Heathcliff, and the Lintons, with their children Edgar and Isabella, plus the next generation – Hareton, the son of Frances Earnshaw and Cathy Linton and Linton, the son of Isabella and Heathcliff – leading up to that moment.

From soon after the opening until we meet the young Linton at the beginning of the second half, I felt it lost it’s way a bit, the storytelling laboured and somewhat forced and the ingenuity we’ve come to expect from Rice on hold, though in all fairness my companions didn’t agree, so maybe I lost interest / concentration. Anyway, the second half was very much a return to form, both in terms of storytelling and imaginative stagecraft. There’s a lot of movement and music, maybe too much, though the chorus is excellent. The screen backdrop, most effective projecting flights of birds in unison with their creation by books on stage could maybe have been used more.

Ash Hunter is a charismatic Heathcliff, troubled and troubling. Nandi Bhebhe is excellent as the head of the moors, leading their vocal narrative. I really liked Tama Phethean’s characterisation of Hareton, an imposing presence. Katy Owen almost steals the show as the frail young Linton. It’s overlong at 2 hours 50 mins and if they tightened the narrative and lost some of the first half’s ninety minutes it might be a better play. There’s lots to enjoy, though I can’t say it has made me want to read the book.

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I’m sure that by now no-one is interested in my view, but it’s too much of a theatrical milestone to let it pass by…….

Don’t expect anything else at the refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre for a decade or two. This inspired and audacious musical isn’t going anywhere. For once something lives up to all the hype. It’s as ground-breaking as West Side Story was sixty years ago. It excels in every department – writing, design, staging and performance. There isn’t a moment wasted, and the amount of detail is almost too much to take in on one visit.

Alexander Hamilton, illegitimate, an orphan, Caribbean immigrant, is (was!) the least known founding father of America. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show, based on Ron Chernow’s book, takes us from his college days in New York City, through his military service as Washington’s right-hand man in the War of Independence, lawyer, Congressman, banker, and Secretary of the Treasury to his assassination by colleague and rival Aaron Burr. It’s virtually sung through, though the score isn’t entirely hip hop as the press has implied; there is rap, but its really an eclectic cocktail of popular music and modern musical theatre styles – and it’s excellent.

Director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler have created a thrilling, extraordinarily detailed and fast-paced staging; you just can’t take your eyes off the stage. David Korins all-purpose set lets it breathe, facilitating both the epic and intimate, and Paul Tazewell period costumes with a twist are gorgeous to look at. I just can’t fault it – the production brings the story and the music to life and the combination of a 200-year-old true story with contemporary music doesn’t seem in the slightest bit incongruous.

We had the alternate Alexander Hamilton on the night we went, but you’d never know; Ash Hunter was superb. Rachelle Ann Go as his wife Eliza and Rachel John as Angelica Schuyler were excellent, in fine voice both. Jason Pennycooke as Lafayette / Jefferson and Giles Terera as Burr are outstanding, the former bringing a delicious humour to Lafayette. King George turns up just three times, on stage alone, but Michael Jibson’s characterisation is simply brilliant, seemingly looking each audience member, his subjects, in the eye, almost stealing the show. They are supported by a fine ensemble that’s a real tribute to British musical theatre talent.

To take the show to the capital city of the former colonial power seems to me to be as audacious as the show itself. The attentive audience was clearly as enthralled and thrilled as I was. I felt I was at a rare milestone in the history of theatre, an evening I will inevitably have to experience again, probably periodically for years to come.

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