Archive for October 22nd, 2009

Review – Silence: the Musical – Imperial Productions at The Curtain’s Up Pub/Baron’s Court Theatre

October 22, 2009

THIS REVIEW IS NOT FOR THE PRODUCTION CURRENTLY AT THE ABOVE THE STAG. The review for that show is here – but you might as well read this as it explains a lot of what I’m talking about in the other review.

NOTE: THIS REVIEW ASSUMES FAMILIARITY WITH THE CHARACTERS OF SILENCE OF THE LAMBS which I knew even though I’d never seen it before ’cause I don’t like scary movies.

It’s not every night that you’re having dinner, casually admiring the hot guy two tables over, then find less than two hours later that you’re now able to say, “Wow! I got to see his junk!” But this was a special night, the night I went to see Silence: the Musical (as in the musical version of Silence of the Lambs), and the sexy, lanky redhead I was admiring was none other than “Buffalo Bill” in the show (Connor Brown in real life), and he had a very special number to sing with a title on the lines of “Would You Fuck Me Now.” And he performed it, ultimately, with his Beardsley print dressing gown (covet!) very much off and his lanky, tattooed, pierced body on. Phoar. Oh, and with his junk tucked between his legs, because, you know, looking like a woman is Bill’s shtick, not that the sharp eye wouldn’t have caught an eyeful (and apparently yummy Mr. Brown’s had more pierced than just his nipples).

And, really, wasn’t it such a rude show? Agent Starling (Charlie Cable) is groped regularly, makes fat jokes, and is mocked mercilessly for her lisp; Hannibal “the cannibal” sings “If I Could Smell Her Cunt.” There is nothing polite about this show in any way, right down to the poodle puppet (about which the less said the better). But really, if you’re not planning on seeing this show and having a good laugh then you’ve picked the wrong play to see – though I doubt anyone who would be attracted to it would be expecting a serious commentary rather than a stick in your eye parody.

I’m actually finding it hard to talk about how very well Silence worked in this tiny space. The show was inventive and fun, from the tap-dancing corpses to the face full of silly string to the use of a cut-out plastic mask for Lecter’s escape scene; but all that wouldn’t have added to a hill of beans if the cast hadn’t been so talented. Agent Starling had the looks and the moxie; while Bill was all sex and shamelessness. But the real star was Tom Murphy as Dr. Lecter himself, because with pipes like that he was a real treat to hear singing. I was reminded of the poor showing at Annie Get Your Gun (and for that matter Carousel). Murphy proved that, despite my fears, there are still apparently actors in London who can sing, though they’re being replaced on the West End with people who need microphones to amplify their tinny voices. And I can promise, you could hear the T that ended every single c**t that came out of his mouth. Mary Martin would have been proud.

I was also pleased that I’d somehow wound up at a musical where the words once again mattered, illuminating plot and character. Unfortunately (and this is my one complaint, though it was a problem far, far too much), in many scenes, especially where the actor had his back to the pillar that demarcated the two sections of audience (the stage was square and we each had a view from one side or the other) you could not hear what was being said, which was a shame as it was often funny and always interesting. It was also a problem for a few of the group scenes and the fault clearly lies on the electric piano, which just needs to be turned down a tad. I realize whoever set the sound levels probably has all of the lyrics memorized, but I don’t, and I would have liked to have heard them.

Overall, this was a brilliant night out (especially at £12 a head and with a two hour running time) and I recommend it heartily as likely the most fun musical on in town right now and CERTAINLY better than anything I’ve seen since Pirates at the Union Theater.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009. It continues through October 31st. For more information see www.imperialproductions.org. I promise I’ll add in actors’ names once I can find them – any help appreciated as I didn’t get a program.)

Review – Terror 2009: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol – Southwark Playhouse

October 22, 2009

Last night I went with J and two friends to see Southwark Playhouse‘s early Halloween offering, “Terror 2009: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol.” Back in Seattle I used to attend Open Circle theater’s regular Halloween offering of HP Lovecraft plays, and I was eager to recreate the experience. Apparently a lot of other people were eager for some chills & thrills as the evening was sold out. While I like the energy of a full theater, piling in to the darkened room (supposedly an electrical issue but in fact an artistic decision) was a huge hassle; I don’t like trampling over people to get to a seat, I don’t like being forced to scoot down to the ass end of a 15 person bench when I’ve chosen to sit where I can see, and I don’t like being forced to walk over people in near total darkness to find your own seat.

Things got off to a grand start as the usheress battered to death a “patron” who’d failed to turn off his cell phone. We then progressed to play number one, my favorite of the evening and worth the price of admission alone: Lucy Kirkwood’s “Psychogeography,” which was sort of on the traditional haunted house lines only … way creepier. I don’t want to ruin the fun, but I have to give credit to the amazing design of this piece, which created a full environment for being spooked – sound, visual, touch … even the trains going overhead added to the atmosphere. The lighting design, basically a flashlight, a half-covered lantern, and an overhead light (which was rarely on), was perfect – guiding the audience’s eyes here and there and hiding things very effectively from us. But none of this would have meant much without the great script and the convincing performances (which I can’t credit as I’ve lost my program). The psychological dynamics between the two characters was very believable (after a bit of grinding at the first) and I competely bought their relationship and the tensions within it, which was crucial to making this piece work. High fives to all for a great play.

Next was Mark Ravenhill’s bizarre monologue “The Experiment,” which charted a convoluted tale of torture and amoral behavior. It was uncomfortable and had the possibility of feeling very ugly if the protagonist had seemed more in touch with reality, but fortunately its shifting, Rashomon-like qualities kept me wondering what the real story was all the way through and didn’t affect me much emotionally.

Returning from intermission, we had the very tight drama of Anthony Nielsen’s “Twisted,” a sort of “Silence of the Lamb” jailhouse psychodrama which left me wondering just who was the victim. While I felt the interviewer was too young to be a seasoned psychologist, there’s no doubt that the tension that developed between her and the man she was interviewing became very real, and I found myself very caught up in the action (not to mention trying to work out the puzzle of “what’s really going on here?”).

Afterwards, I actually hustled my ass out of the theater to miss the Neil LaBute “Some White Chick:” extreme sexual violence doesn’t sit well with me. My husband reported that it wasn’t worth staying for, so I’m glad I saved myself the 40 minutes or so. As it was, I had a great evening anyway and really felt this evening was well worth the thirteen quid I shelled out.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, October 21st. The last performance is on Saturday October 24th, but be warned: Thursday is sold out and Friday and Saturday probably will, too, so shop now if you are interested.)