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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Pavelka’

I have to confess I’ve never read the L P Hartley novel on which this is based, or seen the film (adapted by the man-most-unlikely Harold Pinter!), or the TV adaptation, or heard the radio play, and obviously not the American stage adaptation or the South African opera! It’s clearly a popular source and now we have the musical by Richard Taylor and David Wood. It has its faults, but on the whole I liked it.

It starts in 62-year-old Leo Colston’s attic, from which we flash back fifty years to the summer holidays of 1900 when as a twelve-year-old he visits the home and family of his more well-to-do school friend Marcus. Marcus’ sister Marian befriends Leo, with the ulterior motive of using him as postman to send messages to her secret bit of rough Ted in the neighbouring farm. Leo obliges (he’s got a bit of a crush on Marian) and gets drawn into a world of intrigue, deceit and lies which has such a profound impact on him he is still affected by it fifty years on.

The show flows beautifully in Roger Haines staging, on a lovely impressionistic set by Michael Pavelka. The score isn’t entirely sung through, but it is sub-operatic, with snatches of recurring melodies and sung dialogue rather than songs. I loved the fact it was played onstage by a grand piano (the excellent Nigel Lilley), which really suited the material. The narrative is very clear (a writer used to writing for children again!) and progresses satisfyingly to its flashback conclusion, a flash forward, then return to the attic. At the interval, after a relatively slow first half, I wasn’t sure about it, but it picked up significantly in the second half and I was glad I went.

Though he is playing a character significantly younger, I thought Michael Crawford did so with great dignity and poignancy, on stage throughout like a ghost, and the boy playing young Leo – Luka Green on the night I went – was terrific. Gemma Sutton and Stuart Ward are superb as the lovers Marian and Ted and Samuel Menhinick as young Marcus was excellent. There were just seven other characters, all played with sensitivity in true ensemble fashion.

Based on the proliferation of offers and the audience size on Tuesday, it looks like its heading for an early bath, which is a shame as it is something fresh and different in the West End – a gentle and rather captivating chamber musical. Catch it while you can.

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Twenty-eight years ago I saw a young(ish) Jeff Fahey give an edgy, riveting performance alongside Albert Finney in Orphans at Hampstead Theatre. I haven’t seen him on stage since, until yesterday giving a passionate & just as riveting performance as Juror 3. Yet he’s only one of a fine ensemble which is a very good reason to see this revival. Another good reason is that it’s a gripping drama which has lost none of its punch.

Reginald Rose’s story has had an unorthodox journey from 1954 live TV play to to 1957 Sidney Lumet film to stage play first seen in the UK in 1964, again in 1996 directed by Harold Pinter and it stormed the Edinburgh fringe ten years ago in a production featuring a bunch of stand-up comedians. The truth is, the stage suits it better than the screen and this revival proves this conclusively.

I’m sure everyone knows the story of an all-male jury which has to decide the fate of a 16-year-old who is alleged to have murdered his father. Juror 8 prevents an instant unanimous guilty verdict, not because he thinks he isn’t guilty, but to ensure there is proper consideration of the facts. As they review the evidence, jurors begin to change their positions.

In addition to Fahey, the ‘names’ Martin Shaw and Robert Wagner don’t disappoint, but there are also fine performances from Nick Moran, Miles Richardson, Owen O’Neill (who was in the Edinburgh fringe production), Robert Blythe and Edward Franklin. Director Christopher Haydon and designer Michael Pavelka have done a fine job staging and setting the piece, with the jury table on such an imperceptibly slow revolve it took me ages to realise it was moving!

It might be an old warhorse, but its definitely worth catching in its last month.

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