Amadeus: (seen at the afternoon performance on 8th November 2016).
To use the (modern dress) Southbank Sinfonia is to take this
production to a new and even more revealing level. The music can be heard at the
same 'live drama' level as the spoken word, a glorious fusion which must surely
have been the world in which the composers lived. Sparse elegance elsewhere -
pianos, a moving stage (the revolve comes into its own once again) and a few
chairs are all that are required for this murderous tale of eternity to play
If Lucian Msamati's (Salieri) diction is occasionally not the clearest, his
naked emotion is beautiful and terrible to behold,
his final scenes with his
victim something that would probably be banned for obscenity online, such is the
Adam Gillen (Mozart) is a child (neat costumes, particularly the shoes,
from Poppy Hall and team) yet ageless, man, boy but also genius with
eccentricities fewer than his prodigious talent. Shaffer manages to celebrate,
even as the focus isn't ever on him as the central character.
Excellent support from Venticelli Sarah Amankwah and Hammed Animashaun, and Tom
Edden as Joseph II. Other cast members also deserve plaudits as this is true
ensemble playing, with the integrated musicians sharing all credit.
Yes, it's "sell a kidney for" theatre. That is all the monkey feels anyone needs
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner, used by kind permission.
Follies: (seen at the afternoon performance on 23rd September 2017). The
latest incarnation of many has arrived at the National Theatre, London. Dominic
Cooke uses the full resources of the National to present something remarkable.
Played without an interval, if it weren't for the structure of the show itself,
probably nobody would notice the passage of time - appropriate, as that is the
In a partly demolished theatre (perfectly realised by Vicki Mortimer) former
showgirls, their husbands and impresarios meet for a final time. Hauntingly
beautiful, their younger spirits shadow them, as lives are played and re-played
like the spectaculars in which all once participated.
The first two-thirds of the production could have been called "Ghosts" for the
construct, but the monkey preferred "triste" (Latin for "Sadness"). It's a
feeling that lifts as the evening progresses and re-connection is made with the
energies of youth. The final third, the tricky "Loveland" in which the muddled
emotions of the four leads are explored in four individual songs thus makes an
odd contrast - and is the singularity never really solved for the monkey.
Fortunately, the performances overcome all.
Imelda Staunton (Sally) re-claims "Losing My Mind" from cabaret, an internal
monologue sung with breathtaking control and punctilious phrasing. It's just one
of several other "standards," returning to their rightful home. Tracie Bennett
(Carlotta) gives "I'm Still Here" unique animation, Philip Quast (Ben) hold the
audience enthralled with "The Road You Didn't Take," Janie Dee's (Phyllis) late
"The Story of Lucy and Jessie" is pure emotional energy, and ensemble numbers
"Beautiful Girls" and "Loveland" are particularly impressive.
Notes too for the shadows - Adam Rhys-Charles (Young Ben) and Fred Haig (Young
Buddy) forming the principal male team, beautifully over-confident in their
naivety, with Zizi Strallen (Young Phyllis) and Alex Young (Young Sally) as
sisters in spirit (Ms Young, unusually managing without actual spirits, too). The pairing bring out the most in each other, two
rising musical theatre performers a joy to watch.
A huge supporting cast, too numerous to mention* but every one of them
contributing unique movement, costume and background shadow (note in particular
the period showgirl costumes worn by youngsters, appropriate to each senior
character) and impressive orchestra under Nigel Lilley give the finishing
touches; as do the rare operatic vocals - performed, as with many numbers in the
show - in an almost spooky spotlight glare.
This version doesn't solve many issues the show may have in construction, pace
and resolution, but this deeply moving 5 star production uses the emotion that
is the personal passage of time in each one of us to weave a tale of age that
will live as vividly as youth in the memory.
If you can get a ticket, go see.
*Also impossible, as the programme has ditched decent photographs of each person
for "ensemble" shots too blurry to match with.
Saint George and the Dragon: Not available. Professional reviewers are
agreed that it's a long evening - and that the set is mildly incongruous. Beyond
that, they are divided as to whether the pay-off at the end justifies the
running time. Some find the tale of a "dragon" (real in the earliest scenes,
metaphorical by the end) through the eons of British history too much to take.
Thin idea, stretched and blown up too far on the huge stage. Others think there
is something to be said by the end, and admire the way allegory rather than
direct confrontation is key. The cast do well - several reviewers note the
ensemble work - and the director gets a fair amount from a fairly inexperienced
writer. Flawed, but a good attempt, and thus not a production to dismiss
entirely, seems to be the opinion.