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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Marquez’

Directors are often afraid of messing with classic musicals and they end up way too reverential, failing to show them through contemporary eyes. Well, you couldn’t accuse Josie Rourke’s revival of Sweet Charity of that. Her 60’s New York is sleazier and edgier, which seems to me a more honest way to portray the life of a dancehall hostess in search of love, something her degrading profession makes it harder to find.

From the minute you take your seat, you realise you’re in the New York of Andy Warhol. The metallic walls and furnishings of a warehouse littered with painted Brillo boxes, Lou Reed playing in the background, uber-cool people dressed all in black, chilling and posing. The Warhol references continue throughout in Robert Jones’ clever design.

We meet Charity Hope Valentine straight away, in the park, where her latest flame steals her handbag and pushes her into the lake, the police rescue her and she heads back to the Fandango Club where her colleagues greet her with sympathy but little surprise; they’ve got used to her endless disappointments with men.

After a brief encounter with Italian film star Vittorio, her next flame is mousy, nerdy accountant Oscar, and it looks like she may have found ‘the one’. Their whirlwind love-at-first-sight romance takes us via evening classes, the Rhythm of Life church and Coney Island, to her farewell party at the club, but this is one musical comedy without a happy ending.

This is Anne-Marie Duff’s first musical. In truth she doesn’t have a strong voice, but she makes up for it with a performance that perfectly combines gullibility, charm and vulnerability, interpreting the songs rather than just singing them, a sort of sung-speech style – think Judi Dench Send in the Clowns – which actually works, and with a real talent for comedy. Arthur Darvill superbly captures the nervous innocence and fear of Oscar.

In a fine supporting cast, Martin Marquez is excellent as Vittorio, as is Debbie Kurup, who could easily be in the lead role, as fellow hostess Helene. The guest ‘priest’ on the night I went was Adrian Lester (a wonderful Bobby in Sondheim’s Company on the same stage 23 years ago), which was a real bonus for me.

There’s no room for the ten-piece band, who have taken over the stalls bar and are heard through speakers in the auditorium. The pace is occasionally slow, but the strength of the production is to bring the lives of these exploited women to the fore with a truth I’ve never seen before, without losing the comedy, somewhat surprisingly perhaps. The pathos of the ending said it all.

Traditionalists might not like it, but I thought it was a fresh and inventive take on a 50-year-old show. Oh, and I want Adrian Lester’s glitter shirt. A bigger size, obviously.

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You can always rely on National Theatre Wales to take you on a new journey or to take a new route on an existing one. This isn’t the first play on dementia I’ve seen in recent years, but unlike The Father, which messed with your head to confront the condition, this one goes straight to the heart, with it’s choir setting and lovely contemporary choral music.

Most of the play takes place in the local library where the dementia choir rehearse, though we also visit homes to see some of the realities of living with the condition for both the patients and the carers. As it establishes itself, the therapeutic power of the choir becomes clear, though social services prove less than fully committed and the library is facing an uncertain future. The divisiveness of the miners strike return as an activist miner Rocky and former policeman Evan clash once more. Early onset alzheimer’s brings the much younger Joe and his carer Dyanne to the choir. We have a brief glimpse at carer abuse and a more difficult confrontation with a representative of the result of the demise of the valleys.

It’s a touch bitty, with lots of scene changes slowing the pace (and an awful lot of chair movement!), but it handles the issues effectively and sensitively and the music, including an excellent brand new Manic Street Preachers song written specially for the show, is uplifting. The performances are deeply moving, especially Dafydd Hywel as Rocky, Desmond Barrit as his nemesis Evan and Martin Marquez as Tom. NTW have been working with choirs like this and it’s great to see some of them on stage. Anna Fleischle’s design is uber-realistic and Matthew Dunstster’s staging brings out the best of Patrick Jones’ heart-on-sleeve writing.

I continue to admire NTW’s capacity to engage, educate, challenge, provoke and entertain and was glad I was in Wales to catch this.

 

 

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I’ve been a fan of Eugene O’Neill for a very long time, but I don’t recall a production of this play in London, which is rather baffling as it shows another side of O’Neill and is really rather good. It comes two-thirds through his playwriting career, but it’s much lighter than Morning Becomes Elektra and The Iceman Cometh, the plays immediately before and after respectively. I’m not sure I’d call it a comedy, as many seem to, but it does have plenty of funny moments – and a lot of fireworks; literally rather than metaphorically.

The story takes place on Independence Day and revolves around Richard, the Miller’s teenage middle son, and is really a coming of age tale. He’s a bright, very well read boy whose version of adolescence is at the intense, existentialist end of the spectrum. He’s in love with neighbour Muriel and walks around quoting literature, some considered so inappropriate that her dad David seeks to drive a wedge between them. His elder brother Arthur (Arthur Miller!) leads him astray and then abandons him at a bar frequented by prostitutes. When Richard comes home drunk, it challenges his otherwise tolerant parents. There’s a sub-plot involving the relationship between Richard’s paternal Auntie Lily and maternal Uncle Sid, which is deadlocked by the latter’s liking of a drink.

In Natalie Abrahami’s production, O’Neill himself is an ever present ghost, often mouthing the dialogue he wrote and perhaps emphasising that the play may be autobiographical. Dick Bird’s extraordinary design has sand pouring out of the waterfront house, with a bit if a coup d’theatre as water flows later. George Mackay is hugely impressive as Richard, capturing the the full range of teenage emotions. Janine Dee shows her versatility yet again as mum Essie Miller, and I was impressed by Martin Marquez (John’s lesser known brother) as dad Nat Miller. Dominic Rowan is very believable as a drunk and David Annen is excellent as the omnipresent playwright, neighbour David and bar tender George.

It took a while to take off, but I fell in love with it nonetheless. The Young Vic proving to be indispensable yet again.

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