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Posts Tagged ‘Siubhan Harrison’

This might be the first verbatim musical, based on US oral historian Studs Terkel’s interviews with working people about their jobs, some of which are set to music by no less than six songwriters. It premiered in 1975, but this European premiere is a revised version first seen in 2009, incorporating new interviews conducted by co-adapter Stephen Schwartz and two new songs from musicals-man-of-the-moment Lin-Manuel Miranda. I loved it.

Six actors tell the stories of twenty-six people in a diverse range of occupations. Some are spoken, some sung, some both. I thought it was an inspired idea to add six performers as ‘chorus’, making their professional debuts, just starting their working lives – they add life and energy to the show. In addition to Miranda, there are songs by Schwartz and singer-songwriter James Taylor amongst others, and the quality is consistently high. It’s surprising how much you learn about these people and its refreshing to see something that reflects the lives of ordinary people, their motivations and their aspirations and here, the presence of the young cast members gives it a strong sense of generational change and parental aspirations for children, particularly moving in Peter Polycarpou’s rendition of Fathers & Sons.

The characters and songs are superbly interpreted by Polycarpou plus Gillian Bevan, Dean Chisnall, Krysten Cummings, Siubhan Harrison and Liam Tamne, and there’s a great band led by Isaac McCullough. I liked Jean Chan shabby workplace set & Gabriella Slade’s ‘distressed’ costumes. There’s some excellent choreography from Fabian Aloise and Luke Sheppard, who directed In The Heights here, does a fine job putting this all together into a captivating and uplifting ninety minutes.

Not to be missed.

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When my former employer reached its 150th anniversary, it commissioned a rather dry book about its history. The Langham Hotel had a much better idea – to commission a play to be staged inside it. Defibrilator Theatre had its second run of Tennessee Williams’ Hotel Plays at the Langham, so they were the obvious choice.

Playwright Ben Ellis’ big idea is to stage three ‘acts’ (I’d prefer to call them playlets as they don’t really constitute one play) in three periods in three spaces and it works well. We start in the present with a pop diva (played by a real life former pop singer, Hannah Spearritt) throwing a strop, refusing to take the helicopter to the arena where 20,000 fans are waiting. Her manager works hard to change her mind. In the second play, we’re in the early 70’s and BBC radio have relocated studios from across the road. An American businessman (and Vietnam veteran) and his wife are waiting to be interviewed on air and we learn of the motivation behind his business and their relationship with one another. In the final play, we’re back in 1871 with the French emperor and his wife in exile, contemplating a return to Paris or a journey to Vietnam.

There are connections between them – Vietnam, margarine (!) and ‘the armour’ that gives the evening its title – but they are three miniatures that come together to provide a satisfying, if brief and fairly expensive, experience. I could have done without the chirpy ‘concierge’s explanations and excuses, which were a bit contrived and detracted a little from the experience, and the journeys from the lower ground floor to the 3rd, 7th and back again became a bit tiresome. The six performances, though, were very impressive. Thomas Craig was well matched with Hannah Spearritt in the first play. Simon Darwin and Siubhan Harrison were intense and captivating as the American couple. Sean Murray and Finty Williams were appropriately regal and graceful as the French royals.

In The Hotel Plays (which I saw and enjoyed in its first run elsewhere (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/the-hotel-plays) we were scattered in the rooms like flies on the wall, which I preferred to the seating supplied here, but director / producer James Hillier has done a good job staging these plays and the complimentary bubbles were very welcome (though messing us around by trying to change time slots for no obvious reason wasn’t!).

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