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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Jackson’

Well, that’s a turn up for the books – an Andrew Lloyd Webber show I rather enjoyed. I’d convinced myself he only produced pompous pop operas with mushy scores after Starlight Express, but I hadn’t seen this when it was first produced fourteen years ago. It probably helps seeing it on a small scale and in an imaginative production with a fine young cast.

Set in the late 60’s in Northern Ireland, it follows a catholic soccer team and the fate of its players and their partners during ‘the troubles’. Thomas joins the IRA. John gets married. Ginger is the victim of protestant paramilitaries. Daniel turns to crime. Though only Thomas becomes a terrorist, the others are dragged in. It does a good job showing how the troubles affected peoples lives and has more edginess and less sentimentality than I was expecting.

It’s traverse staging is effective (well, unless you get a pillar to partially block your view, like me) with particularly good presentation of the football games, with spectators behind the audience. David Shields’ simple but evocative design puts the band behind barricades, political slogans painted on doors & walls and four benches creating dressing rooms, churches and coffins. The musical standards are exceptional, with both band and vocals consistently hitting the mark. It’s a fine young cast with uniformly good acting, movement & singing.

The Irish influenced music is surprisingly good, but its let down by Ben Elton’s weak book and lyrics, which delivers some excruciating moments. That said, this is the kind of high quality intimate staging that can paper over the cracks in the show itself. Director Lotte Wakeham and choreographer Tim Jackson have done a fine job.

A surprise hit for me, which made me wonder if there are other ALW shows which would benefit from more intimate and less overblown productions.

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The last time I went to Southwark Playhouse, it was to see a musical called Parade I hadn’t really rated at the Donmar three years before but loved second time round. Well, now its the other way round – I loved this at the Bridewell 13 years ago, yet I’m now not so sure it’s a good show (though it is a good production).

Adam Guettel & Tina Landau’s musical tells the true story of a man who is trapped in a cave in Kentucky for several days in 1925 whilst seeking out a new entrance to the show cave he and his family own. A young cub reporter picks up the story and it travels like wild-fire, capturing the imagination of the whole country. A media circus and a commercial carnival ensues, a local mining executive tries to take over the rescue and the family bicker.

The Vaults, Southwark Playhouse’s space in the arches under London Bridge station, is a superb location for a show largely set in a cave – though this does bring some acoustic problems they don’t entirely overcome, and a distance from the audience which doesn’t help you engage with the story and characters. Derek Bond’s staging is imaginative and James Perkins evocative design and Sally Ferguson’s atmospheric lighting cleverly use just eighteen ladders and some rope & boxes.

The score is beautifully played, under MD Tim Jackson, by a lovely combination of string quartet, acoustic guitar / banjo, harmonica and percussion and the performances are uniformly good. Ryan Sampson contrast his superb performance in the Kitchen Sink recently at the Bush with a completely different but equally superb one as the dimunitive cub reporter Skeets. The role of Floyd is a tough one – it carries the first 15 minutes virtually alone yet there are long scenes overground where he’s silent – and the excellent Glenn Carter works hard but doesn’t quite pull it off. I very much liked Kit Benjamin as the mine owner Carmichael and Gareth Chart as brother Homer and the three reporters – Vlach Ashton, Dayle Hodge and Roddy Peters – bring some much-needed fizz in their ‘chorus’ number.

It’s hard to imagine a better venue or a more talented cast, band and creative team, yet it ultimately fails because the subject matter, the story and the sub-operatic score just aren’t good enough. I didn’t feel engaged and the music only occasionally impressed. I felt I was observing a piece of work, not involved in the tale.

These second looks do confound sometimes!

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