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Posts Tagged ‘From Page to Stage’

In a surprising co-incidence, the second full staging in the enterprising from Page to Stage season turns out to be covering similar ground as The Mistress Contract across the river at the Royal Court. It’s a 75-minute show which ‘illustrates’ the offer of a similar arrangement to 30-something New York girl Tess with the stories of four mistresses from history. It felt like work-in-progress rather than a finished piece; well it is part of a season of work in development after all!

The other mistresses are a 14-year old 12th century Chinese concubine, the mistress of a 16th century French king, an early 20th century New Orleans brothel madam and diarist of sexual exploits Anais Nin. We hear from them all; the trouble is we don’t hear enough from Tess, who seems more like a device for the other stories than a fully fledged character in her own right. I think Beth Blatt needs to flesh out her story and give it more substance.

Jenny Giering’s music is nice, though it lacked variety with just five female voices and a piano (gorgeously played by Caroline Humphris). Bronagh lagan’s staging and Eda Giray’s designs were both effective and elegant. The cast performed the material well; I was particularly impressed by Kara Lane and Nicola Blackman, but I felt Tess was a little under powered.

There’s a full show in there waiting to be brought out, but even as it is, I enjoyed it a lot more than the other one across the river!

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From Page to Stage is an excellent initiative promoting new musical theatre. For four weeks at the Landor they will put on two fully staged premieres, three ‘readings’ and a couple of showcase ‘concerts’. This is the first of the two premieres – a musical comedy thriller – and it’s huge fun.

Olivia Thompson (book, lyrics and gamely taking over the role of Verona!) & Chris Whitehead (music) have set their show in the 30’s at the birthday party of British film star Honey Quenelle (in a clever touch, designer Magdalena Iwanska has created eighteen period film posters featuring her). She’s walked out on her latest film and producer Stubby is determined to change her mind. The other guests Include jealous acting rival Verona, Honey’s ex Dickie and her new wife Farmonica, brother Monty and friends / colleagues Hilary & Margot. Butler Hugo and maid Mabel complete the picture.

The first half sets up a murder and the second unravels it in true farcical fashion. Things are not as they seem and it does become a bit convoluted as it progresses. It twists from being a whodunnit to a whodidntdoit and why. It’s a good score with a cocktail of musical styles and both the book and lyrics are very funny indeed. The writers are very lucky to have Robert McWhir direct and there are some inventive touches, including a prologue featuring a building on fire, guests arriving in three ‘cars’ and a blackout scene played with torches.

They are also lucky to have a cast of this quality and experience, assembled by Benjamin Newsome (again), including a delicious comic performance by Kate Brennan as Mabel and a glamorous leading lady in Amelia Adams-Pearce. The second half contains big numbers for Ian Mowat’s Stubby, Keiran Brown’s Hilary and Jenny Gayner’s Farmonica and they all rise to the occasion with gusto. Whitehead plays his own score on the piano, so there’s no hiding place for either composer or writer!

This is a very impressive first full scale musical. It does need a little work, and its running time cut from 2h40m (even the programme said 2h10m), but it must surely get a proper run outside From Page to Stage. Six performances just isn’t enough for such a good show. I can’t remember when I laughed so much at a musical.

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