Skip to main content

The King and I

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
If Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerrstein's much-loved 1951 musical
were to be pitched as a new work today, chances are it would be knocked
back at every turn. Devising a show about an eastern despot with a
dodgy human rights record and a fondness for American presidents who is
enlightened and educated by a prim English school-teacher, after all,
hardly sounds like the sort of feelgood fare to keep the nation's
post-war pecker up. Slavery, misogyny, bullying, spying and brutality
are all in the mix, and if there's anything happy about the ending,
it's that the King's death is for a more universal good.

Yet even at a Saturday afternoon preview performance of the newly
constituted Music and Lyrics consortium's touring restaging of Paul
Kerryson's original production for The Curve, Leicester, its
eye-poppingly clear just how inspired a yarn this is. The songs and
story are intact, with Ramon Tikaram and Josefina Gabrielle making a
handsome-looking cross-cultural couple, and a ten-piece orchestra in
full view at the back of Sara Perks' vivid set. Yet there seems
something very modern at play here, even as Kerryson and co look to
traditional theatrical forms in a near boutique fashion.

Shadow puppetry and gymnastic interludes frame each scene, adding to an
already sumptuous spectacle, while the singing during the second act
play within a play somewhat bizarrely and almost certainly
unintentionally recalls the vocals of Glasgow-based visual artist Sue
Tompkins in post-punk outfit Life Without Buildings a decade back. This
is a show that's full of heart and soul, which, as charming as it is,
also takes itself seriously enough to give those blinded by power their
come-uppance.

The Herald, December 19th 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…