Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Tristan Bates Theatre’

Opening a new theatre after the worst two years in theatre history is brave indeed. Seven Dials Playhouse has risen, metaphorically, from the ashes of Tristan Bates Theatre, and it’s good to report that it gets off to an excellent start with this European premiere of Mark Gerrard’s 2015 off-Broadway hit.

Designer Lee Newby has built a replica of Joe Allen’s New York theatre-land restaurant which doubles up as a Starbucks and other locations. Dick Straker & Barbara Senoltova’s projections into photo and window frames are particularly clever and there’s even a revolve! MD Ben Papworth plays musical theatre numbers superbly on an onstage piano, reflecting the background of the key characters. Outstanding production values.

The story revolves around gay couple Steven, a former dancer, and Stephen, a lawyer, and their 8-year-old son Stevie, Steven’s best friend Matt and his partner Brian and Carrie, a friend of them all, who is estranged from her partner Lisa, oh, and terminally ill. Steven & Stephen’s seemingly stable relationship is tested by another Steve, a personal trainer, who also has relationships with Matt and Brian it seems. Then there’s Argentinian Esteban (guess what that translates as?!), who starts as a waiter but becomes intertwined with them, and Stephen Sondheim, who looms large.

It’s an original, cleverly constructed piece, often very funny, with sharp sparkling dialogue, well developed characters and unexpected plot twists. It’s littered with musical theatre references, particularly Sondheim ones, in both dialogue and piano ‘accompaniment’, which I found delicious, but others less seeped in the genre may find less accessible. It’s performed superbly, particularly by David Ames as Steven and Jenna Russell as Carrie. One of the strengths of Andrew Keates’ great production is its pacing, including a stand-out section where Joe Aaron Reid as Stephen is masterly juggling multiple overlapping phone and text conversations alone on stage.

I really enjoyed it. Quality writing and performances, terrific staging and design. What more can you ask for?

Read Full Post »

Well, it did. The true story of a couple of young psychopaths who kill a boy for thrills may not seem promising or appropriate material for a chamber musical, but it actually works – and it tells the story with more psychological depth than Patrick Hamilton’s play ‘Rope’ on the same subject, recently revived at the Almeida.

These two young men started getting their kicks from arson and robbery, but it wasn’t long before they concocted the ultimate crime of murder. The show tells the story as flashback from Leopold’s parole board hearing 34 years after imprisonment; this is a very clever idea. The attraction of Loeb to Leopold is clear from the outset but whether it is reciprocated is ambiguous, which adds to the intrigue of the story. Leopold’s true motivation isn’t revealed until the end.

Writer Stephen Dolginoff handles the psychological complexity very well, with the help of his own excellent score and lyrics. Simply but effectively staged by Guy Retalllack, in close proximity the two actors – Jye Frasca and George Maguire – convey all the manic intensity of their characters and their vocal performances are outstanding; their experience in musicals shows and pays off. Musical Director David Keefe plays the dense score on piano brilliantly.

With so much theatre-going, it’s amazing that I still manage to visit new venues like Tristan Bates Theatre; I think they need a publicist (or a better one, if they have one!) as this excellent show – which has taken a long time to come here after 50 productions in 4 other countries – hasn’t had anywhere as much publicity as it deserves. You have 2.5 more weeks to see what I mean…..

Read Full Post »