Skip to main content

Chicago


Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Five stars

“The whole world’s gone lowbrow,” mourns hard-hustling prison queen bee Matron ‘Mama’ Morton to beleaguered showgirl Velma Kelly in John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s musical hitching up of celebrity culture’s tissue-sized skirts.  If things were that bad in 1975, when the trio’s brash, flash and hip-thrustingly trashy reinvention of journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins’ 1926 play first appeared, pity how things have turned out  forty-odd years later.

Don’t be put off by the show’s deceptively serious intent. As the high-kicking opener to Pitlochry’s Festival Theatre’s summer season this year, Richard Baron’s production is sex on legs and pretty much any other part of the body that can shimmy, wiggle or bump-and-grind.

Based around Niamh Bracken’s Velma and Lucie-Mae Sumner’s Roxie and their respective fall and rise on the back of crimes passionelle, Kander, Ebb and Fosse’s yarn is presented as a series of after-hours cabaret routines with an open-plan prison theme. Baron’s fifteen-strong ensemble set out their store from the off with a version of All That Jazz which, for anyone not sure before, makes its libidinous intent eye-poppingly explicit.

The sensation-seeking that follows is a sassy, brassy construction, with Chris Stuart-Wilson’s Fosse-inspired choreography driven by David Higham’s ten-piece speak-easy combo. Sumner in particular is a comic mix of gum-chewing brittleness and strike-a-pose blonde ambition, while Carl Patrick makes for a droolingly viperous Billy Flynn.

All of this combines to show how, in terms of rags-to-riches success stories and the requisite amount of soul-selling required to get rich, showbiz and crime are joined at the hip. It also lays bare how, in terms of front page news, sex still sells. If all this looks like reality TV and clickbait culture in waiting, it remains a ravishingly entertaining and deliriously cynical evocation of American values gone wrong.

The Herald, June 5th 2018

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…