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Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Marvin’

Emma Rice is first and foremost a storyteller. She sprinkles her stories with an inventiveness that makes them sparkle. Her best work, like Brief Encounter, Romantics Anonymous, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and Tristan & Yseult is captivating. The problem with this adaptation of Percy & Eleonore Adlon’s German indie film is that there isn’t enough story. What comes out is still inventive, with exceptional stagecraft and excellent performances, but it isn’t substantial enough. I admired the work that had gone into it, but I was left thinking ‘what’s the point?’. Maybe she’s too close to the source (her favourite film) to be truly objective?

It’s set in the Mojave Desert in the South West US at a cafe / gas station miles from nowhere. Two German tourists are passing through, but for some reason Herr Munchgstettner abandons his wife Jasmin there. She befriends the bartenders, truckers and other travellers who are also passing through, makes herself useful enough to earn her stay there, and bonds with proprietor Brenda. Cue songs, magic and some dance, and that’s about it really. It’s more of a stage picture than a story, which is the crux of the issue for me.

The Old Vic stage transforms well into this desert landscape in Lez Brotherston & Vicki Mortimer’s design. There’s some good music, with Sandra Marvin and Le Gateau Chocolat in particularly good voice. There’s a fine collection of quirky characters passing through. In addition to the magic, there’s some mime, puppetry and other bits of fun business. The community choir on video at the curtain call was a lovely touch. It just doesn’t go anywhere, and in comparison with most of Rice’s work left me hungry. Idiosyncratic and charming, but slight and insubstantial.

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This is a cross between London Road, the NT’s ground-breaking verbatim ‘musical’ about the Ipswich prostitute murders, and those terrific ‘tribunal’ plays at the Tricycle, but without the depth of either. Though there is much to admire and enjoy, it seemed ever so slight to me. Though the writers are experienced as director, actor and MD, I wondered if their lack of experience as writers showed.

The full title is The Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee takes oral evidence on Whitehall’s relationship with Kids Company. In Robert Jones uber-realistic design, we are in the public gallery of one of the committee rooms in Portcullis House. The charity’s founder, Camila Batmanghelidjh, and its Chairman, the BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob, are being questioned by MP’s, interspersed with the evidence of others who’d been employed by or involved with the charity which spent nearly £50m of tax-payers money in questionable ways without much management control, it seems.

It doesn’t really come to any conclusions, but it implies that though her heart was in the right place, she was unqualified for her role and many, including Yentob and government ministers, were under her spell. All of the questions and evidence are taken from the transcripts, and some dialogue is sung, including a number of short songs, to piano and string accompaniment. Tom Deering’s music is good, but I’m not sure the musical form adds anything, like it did in London Road.

The trouble is it’s an insubstantial 75 minutes, so it’s unable to do the subject justice. Almost as soon as it got going it was over, which is a shame as the creative and performing contributions are good. The vocal honours belong to Omar Ebrahim as Yentob and Sandra Marvin as Batmanghelidgh and there’s fine acting from another seven performers as the five MP’s, including Bernard Jenkin and Kate Hoey, the committee clerk and assistant.

All I could think of at the end was why on earth there hasn’t been a more thorough public inquiry about this; it was tax-payers money, after all. A missed opportunity, I’d say, and not very good value at 50p per minute!

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