Connor’s score owes a considerable debt to Sondheim, but, that said, it treads in very interesting paths. Complex and intricate, the melodies and harmonies reward careful listening, but there is no danger of a “hummable tune” for the most part, even though individual numbers and vocal lines are quite beguiling, instantly enjoyable.
Barker’s play is extraordinary, especially given that it was written over a century ago and revised by him in the late 20’s, the original having been banned from performance. The notions and complex philosophies which underline the narrative are as fresh, vital and important now as then. The need to invest in the future, to educate the young properly. The hopelessness of political cabals. The marginalisation of women. Double-standards in public life. The dirty compromises of party politics. The terror a true rebel with a proper cause can create in the complacent and borne to rule.
The revival of Harlequinade, directed by Branagh and Ashford, now playing at the Garrick Theatre (in a 100 minute experience that includes All On Her Own and no intervals) is something of a revelation. Mostly, Harlequinade is seen in conjunction with The Browning Version, one of Rattigan’s masterpieces, usually as a curtain raiser. To my mind, that combination has never worked and Harlequinade has always seemed pale and irksome by comparison with The Browning Version. But, here, released from the curtain raiser position, placed directly in the spotlight, splendidly set up by the intense darkness of All On Her Own, the play can shine.
Dench’s verse speaking is unrivalled. She picks each word and gives it full, accurate weight, landing the sense, purpose and exact emotion of every glittering phrase. She is wily, wise and wonderful. Her pained berating of Leontes when she tells him Hermione is dead is one of the greatest moments in theatre I have ever witnessed. So powerful, it knocks the breath from your body.
In the early stages of the play, this approach is both confronting and disarming. I found myself consulting the programme to check who was who before catching on to Zeller’s conceit (as opposed to thinking I had missed something). Once you click into the right receptive mode, accept you will not understand everything, you are free to marvel at Kenneth Cranham’s extraordinary performance as André and gain some understanding of what it is to have your wits challenged by Alzheimer’s.
What play should you see first in London? We have compiled this list to save you the trouble of working it out! It’s just our view – and everyone has one – based on our Reviewers’ thoughts. We will update the list regularly so new productions get on your radar and when original casts change that is factored in. Plays which have been running for … Read more
Given its inherent flaws, the play cannot hope to succeed without a powerhouse performance from its star and here Laasko has struck gold. Leigh is outstanding in every respect. Her voice is powerful and bewitching, full of throaty sensuality and ardent guttural flourishes. You have no trouble believing that she could sing loudly enough to be heard over the traffic on the streets of Paris.
What long running show should you see first in London? We have compiled this list to save you the trouble of working it out! It’s just our view – and everyone has one – based on our Reviewers’ thoughts. We will update the list regularly so that cast changes can factor into the mix. Only Plays and Musicals which have been running for more than … Read more