Posted in theatre

Toxic Avenger

Toxic Avenger

Southwark Playhouse

Saturday 23rd April  19.30

There’s something to be said for going into a venue and a show completely fresh. Aside from listening to the songs of Toxic Avenger (with Music by David Bryan and Lyrics from Joe DiPietro) and being vaguely aware of the story we weren’t really sure what to expect. We’d been promising ourselves a trip to Southwark Playhouse and this seemed the perfect opportunity.

It has to be said at this point that Hermione had been refusing to listen to it as it had been recommended by her mother and the husband had left our company for an evening with Pinter curtesy of the Old Vic.

A minimal, paired down set and very small cast meant that this production was clearly going to rely on the music and the book for setting the scenes and guiding us through.

What followed was a riotous comedy that never takes itself seriously. There are hilarious nods in the direction of Phantom, Les Mis, Rocky Horror and Little Shop of Horrors. It’s a fast paced show that sends itself up, plays to the audience cleverly and had us in tears of laughter for much of the time.

Performance wise no one could have been faulted. Mark ANderson and Hannah Grover are make for a great pairing with entertaining characterisations of Melvin and Sarah. A shout out must surely go to Marc Pickering and Ashley Samuels who have the job of playing multiple characters including Sarah’s female friends, at break neck speed with flawless comic timing. Lizzii Hills as the mayor and Melvin’s mother provided us with a fantastic performance for the face off that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

All in all this is a musical that doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Yes there are messages to be taken from it but it packs in the laughter. It’s cartoon like as indeed it should be without being over the top.

This performance, I believe was the second preview and certainly didn’t feel that way. Is it too early to request a West End run?

Posted in theatre

Doctor Faustus

img_6249Doctor Faustus

Duke of York’s Theatre, London

Saturday 23rd April, 14.30

Having had a previous glimpse into the directorial mind of Jamie Lloyd and having been informed during rehearsal period that this version would be yielding a “few surprises” we kept an open mind prior to seeing this version. Quite how different it would prove to be; I don’t think we were totally prepared for!

This is a production that hits you from the moment you arrive; the red themed lobby, the inspired music choices and the cast members on stage as the audience settle themselves down.

And so with a flickering of lights we entered the world of Lloyd’s Faustus. A confusing dark world inhabited by demons and spirits where violence, nudity, superficiality and bodily fluids take over. The movement of characters through the set complements the original language of Marlowe and I particularly found myself gripped by the portrayal of the seven deadly sins by Tom Edden.  Faustus played, as the entire world must  now know, by Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, I felt to be somewhat  down playing the language of Marlowe. Subsequently had the effect of making even the original text more ‘every day’ rather that decried in the way that, for example, Shakespeare often is. Perhaps that was the point all along; yet another modernising device? I am unsure but my feeling is that Mr Harington will undoubtedly settle even more into the meter of the language.

But what of the modern Colin Teevan reworking that has been dropped in to replace the whole horse section of the original text? A bold move and one that has divided opinions including those in our family. Personally I loved it; taking from it the fact that it is a huge device to satire the modern age of celebrity culture and the path which people have already gone down. The selling our souls to a media frenzy, bankers, celebrity and fast paced lifestyle with no clear way to redeem ourselves. The only issue I really had with it was that the language was not inventive enough. Simply using explicit profanities against the church does not prove to be as clever as the original language where Faustus mocks the Catholic church.

No Cooper trip to the theatre ever takes place without a decent debate and we are still talking about the rewrite. The husband was not a fan of the writing;  the original play being his favourite dramatic workand the 14 year old also was not sold on it. Hermione is developing her own, often strong, opinions and found herself unhappy with the new writing much preferring the original sections. This in itself is interesting from a theatre goer of the next generation who on the surface one would expect to prefer the newer work. (What can I say; she’s a little different, my daughter and she’s clearly her father’s child!)

Jenna Russell we all felt played a unique Mephistopheles,  manipulative, sexy and with a fantastic voice. The music throughout this production is a bold and captivating move and in fact the whole soundscape adds depth which is rarely used to such effecting your traditional plays. The set is another Soutra Gilmour triumph and we all found the fact that you can see through to the back of the theatre to be very clever. It is indeed a set and production that clearly indicates our demons and indeed our own hellish nightmares are all around us.

The production finishes in a a return to the Marlowe text, a level of violence that I feel may at this point have been unnecessary and slightly less blood than I had braced myself for. The demise of Faustus is not a spectacular fall from grace by this point as everyone knew that it was coming but I’m also not sure by this point if we were meant to care that the end was nigh for him.

This new production is clearly designed to provoke, shock, entertain ( depending on your sensibilities) and draw in a younger audience. It’s an acquired taste; an intense spectacle that is more Pulp Fiction and punk culture than some might feel comfortable with but how clever to take something first performed in 1592 and fling it into our broken modern age.

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Promises to be kept

The whole review/ writing about/ commenting upon different theatrical experiences could be a minefield. Here’s what to expect!

  • Musings
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Connections
  • Considered opinion
  • Positivity
  • My view of the whole experience from start to finish. 

What you WON’T get:

  • Rudeness
  • Unnecessary personal comments
  •  Gossip 
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It’s a bit of a test

The idea of writing my theatre related  thoughts has been something I’ve thought of doing for a while. A sort of dumping ground for the thoughts I currently share with people fairly close to me? who tend to converse rather than judge, and a scrappy notebook. 

It’s a pretty difficult decision to make. Will I have time? Will anyone bother to read? Will I unintentionally offend anyone? But probably the most common thought of all: will I be thick skinned enough to cope with those who deride any comments I make in an destructive  or personal manner? Only time will tell.