Skip to main content

Miss Saigon

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Four stars

There are two devastating moments in this Cameron Mackintosh-produced touring revival of composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil’s Madame Butterfly inspired musical epic that charts the human fallout of the Vietnam War. Three if you count the tellingly unhappy ending. The first comes at the start of the second act, with the use of film footage of Vietnamese street children conceived by American fathers. Accompanied onstage by a group of the play’s statesman-like ex-servicemen singing their hearts out to assuage their guilt, the scene has a similar power to the sort of overblown 1980s charity record it resembles.

The second moment comes when Kim, the young Vietnamese woman who fell for brooding GI Chris three years before, bearing their son in his absence, meets Chris’ American wife, Ellen. Touchingly played by Sooha Kim and Zoe Doano, for a few minutes they are the only two people onstage. It’s a rare moment of intimacy among the busy streams of khaki-clad soldiers and scantily-dressed female employees of the glitzy Saigon brothel run by the big-talking sleaze-ball known only as The Engineer. It is here that Kim and Chris’ fate is sealed in a way that reflects the real-life experience of thousands.

Director Laurence Connor’s surprisingly bombast-free production serves up a fluid staging of a grown-up musical that captures America’s uneasy relationship with Vietnam. Magnificently performed and staged as it is, it is riddled with similar contradictions. Both Chris and Kim are too good to be true. As played by Ashley Gilmour, he’s deep as well as macho, literally a white knight saving the innocent princess from Red Concepcion’s evil Engineer. Even though none of the male characters are remotely likeable, the result remains an astonishing depiction of an unnecessary mess that still leaves its tragic mark.

The Herald, January 22nd 2018


ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…