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Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Clune’

This is amongst Shakespeare’s most moralistic plays. Vienna has degenerated into a debauched city and its Duke decides to take a break, putting Angelo in charge, though he is hovering in the background, monitoring activities in disguise as a friar. Well, it would’t be Shakespeare without someone in disguise. Angelo takes a no-mercy approach and condemns Claudio to death for having sex with his girlfriend outside marriage. Claudio’s sister Isabella delays her entrance into the nunnery to plead for her brother, when we see Angelo misuse his power in a way we now see daily.

This is filleted to a 75-minute version in period costume – a short, conventional but perfectly good staging of the play. A coup d’theatre then propels us forward to the present time, where the Duke appoints Isabella rather than Angelo, who is now Claudio’s brother, and we embark on a even more filleted 65-minute version, all mobile phones and other contemporary references, where the protagonists have changed gender. Josie Rourke’s production is both very clever and very timely.

Pete McKintosh’s simple set facilitated the show propelling forward 400 years in a matter of seconds, with the emphasis on costumes, lighting and music / sound. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are both excellent in their role reversals, and there are fine performances from Sule Rimi as Claudio, Nicholas Burns as the Duke, Matt Bardock as Lucio, Adam McNamara as the Provost and Raad Rawi as Escalus. Of course, everyone is required to exhibit different period behaviours, and Jackie Clune and Rachel Denning lead their band of prostitutes doing so brilliantly.

It does make an interesting and important point – how we treat the same situation differently depending on the sex of the protagonists, but it wasn’t as emphasised as I was expecting, and I did wonder if it was worth such a radical reinvention to make the point. Still, I much admired both the idea and its execution.

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I’d only ever seen Candide on a big scale – Scottish Opera at the Old Vic in 1988, the NT in the Olivier in 1999 and the biggest of all, ENO at the ginormous London Coliseum in 2008. So forgive me for a ‘WTF?’ when this operetta was announced as the Menier’s Christmas show.

The theatre’s configuration for this has the audience on four sides with a mezzanine behind them and stage entrances on three sides and this works well (from where we were, but I suspect not for all). There are doors and windows in the mezzanine, with stairs down on two sides. The rest of Paul Farnsworth ‘s clever design is period costumes and the odd prop.

The story of Candide’s adventurous journey from fictitious Westphalia through Holland, Lisbon, Paris, Cadiz, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, mythical Eldorado and Surinam to Venice is completely preposterous, but there’s some lovely music and enough funny business to keep you amused. The four romantic leads are excellent – Fra Fee as Candide, David Thaxton as Maximilian, the lovely Cassidy Janson as Paquette and (under Rule 7 of musical theatre casting, stating that you must have a Strallen) the wonderful Scarlett Strallen.

Unfortunately, they’ve also cast James Dreyfuss as Pangloss and Jackie Clune as Old Lady, neither of whom are up to the roles (particularly when compared with Simon Russell Beale at the NT and Patricia Routledge at the Old Vic!); it undermines rather than ruins it, but its a shame. There’s some good choreography from Adam Cooper no less and good musical standards from the small (for Candide) band of nine under Seann Alderking. Matthew White has staged it with brio and it doesn’t feel its length.

If you go expecting high art, you’ll come out disappointed. If you go expecting musically up-market panto, you’ll have fun. I did.

 

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