Archive for August, 2019

The Weatherman (Park Theatre)

Posted: August 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

Writer: Eugene O’Hare      Director: Alice Hamilton

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My review can currently be seen at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/the-weatherman-park-theatre-london/ and will appear here from 26 August.

Performance date: 21 August 2019

Book and lyrics: Lynn Ahrens      Music: Stephen Flaherty      Director and choreographer: Lee Proud

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Continuing The British Theatre Academy’s 2019 Summer Season, Once On This Island is a revival of a short musical which was seen on Broadway in 1990 and in the West End in 1994, the latter production winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

The show is based on My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl, a 1985 novel by Rosa Guy, telling a mystical tale that has strong echoes of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. The story is infused with the flavour of its Caribbean island setting, with local superstitions and folklore intervening along the way.

A little girl, Ti Moune (Kassidy Taylor at this performance), is orphaned in a storm and adopted by the peasants Euralie (Marie-Anna Caufour) and Tonton (Andre Beswick).

Having grown up, Ti Moune is played by Chrissie Bhima, who gives a terrific star performance. It is now her turn to become a rescuer and, when she finds the young upper class Frenchman, Daniel (Sam Tutty), injured in a car crash, she nurses him back to health. After his family has reclaimed Daniel, Ti Moune pursues him across mountains to the far side of the island only to find man-made barriers standing in her way. The social divisions in the story are about class and director Lee Proud takes care to make sure that they are not seen to be about race.

Proud, a vastly experienced choreographer, packs the traverse stage with movement and colour, sometimes using the entire company of 19. Atmospheric lighting, designed by Andrew Exeter, and Simon Wells’ flamboyant costumes help to transport us to a tropical paradise and the overflowing exuberance of the performers does the rest. The show is virtually sung through, Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics telling the story concisely and clearly. Stephen Flaherty’s easy listening, melodic score combines calypso influenced numbers with power ballads, all sung and played beautifully under the musical direction of Chris Ma.

Running at around 85 minutes without an interval, the show is just short enough to ensure that it runs out of neither story not musical variety, not to mention energy. It brings a brief splash of tropical sunshine into our lives.

Performance date: 14 August 2019

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

River in the Sky (Hope Theatre)

Posted: August 12, 2019 in Theatre

Writer and director: Peter Taylor

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Peter Taylor’s riveting 70-minute one-act play, River in the Sky, was seen briefly at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in London just a few months ago. Its quick return for a longer run here is richly deserved.

Taylor explores how a couple, both devastated by the loss of their child, find ways to come to terms with their grief by creating worlds of wild fantasy. We first meet Ellie (Lindsey Cross) and Jack (Howard Horner) when they are planning the size of their family, settling on the number one. We then learn that, after an earlier miscarriage, their one child has died in infancy. Immediately after the funeral, Ellie disappears to a dilapidated caravan on a rugged coast, seeing no one, apart from visits by Jack to bring her supplies of Earl Grey tea and custard creams.

We know that Ellie is a writer, but, otherwise, Taylor gives us only scant back stories for the couple, leaving it to his capable actors to flesh out the characters. There is little to distract from the assured writing and the acting in Taylor’s in-the-round staging and deliberately understated performances from Cross and Horner convey the depth of individual and joint suffering. Ellie and Jack find their own way of coping, embarking on flights of Game of Thrones style fantasy to divert their minds from reality and give themselves time to heal. 

Ferocious monsters, flying cars, roaring winds and turbulent seas feature in the stories which Ellie and Jack relate to themselves, each other and their dead child. They become the heroes, saving their limbs from the jaws of hungry carnivores and slaying dragons, as they act out their brave deeds. The tales feel less like metaphors for the cruelty of real life than examples of the wild fantasy worlds in which we all may seek refuge when life becomes too hard to bear.

The play has progression, taking the couple on a journey from deep depression, alienation and attribution of blame to a common understanding which shines a beacon of hope. The journey is marked out by subtle changes in writing style and performances which suggest the potency of fantasy as a cathartic force. The couple’s method of dealing with grief may not necessarily find approval from psychologists, but we feel that it gives them the strength to move on.

Performance date: 8 August 2019

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com