Posts with the label reviews
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

The King and I on tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: An Enchanting Evening


The King and I (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
★★★★★

Last night the New Victoria theatre came alive with Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless musical, The King and I. Set in the 1860s, the storyline revolves around the King of Siam, portrayed by Brian Rivera, who hires the intelligent British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, played by Annalene Beechey, to educate his extensive family. The clash of their personalities and cultural backgrounds sets the stage for a compelling narrative.

The performances showcased a beautiful transformation of understanding and mutual appreciation between the stubborn monarch and the determined British teacher. This transformation is beautifully encapsulated through the touching rendition of 'Getting to Know You' by Anna (Annalene Beechey) and the Royal Children, leaving the audience in awe.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s memorable score stole the spotlight, standing the test of time. The talented cast breathed life into these classic songs, leaving the audience longing for more. The chemistry between the leads was palpable, and both Beechey and Rivera delivered exceptional performances. Beechey's voice charmed the audience, while Rivera's portrayal of the King of Siam was both strong and hypnotic, reminiscent of Yul Brynner's iconic performance at the London Palladium in 1979.

Special mention must be made of other outstanding cast members, including Cezarah Bonner as Lady Thiang and Marienella Phillips as Tuptim, who delivered exceptional performances that enriched the overall experience.

The stage was adorned with a stunning backdrop featuring vibrant colors that transported the audience to the sumptuous world of the King’s Palace, thanks to the masterful designs by Michael Yeargan. Catherine Zuber's costumes enhanced the performers' presence, making them glitter and shine against the opulent palace setting.

The choreography by Christopher Gattelli was a true standout, with intricate dance numbers blending traditional Thai movement with a modern flair. The 'Small House of Uncle Thomas' dance sequence was particularly mesmerising, captivating the audience with its hypnotic beauty and emotional resonance. Generally the show is well paced, although Act 2 might have felt a bit lengthy to some.

In summary, The King and I musical on tour provides a captivating experience, combining talented performers, unforgettable music, entrancing dance sequences, an immersive set, and beautiful costumes. I wholeheartedly recommend this production, and for me, it was undoubtedly a 5 out of 5.

Reviewed on Tuesday 26th September by Glenys Balchin
Photo Credit: Johann Persson

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The King and I on tour at the New Victoria Theatre Review: An Enchanting Evening

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Police Cops: The Musical at the Southwark Playhouse Review: A Hilarious Riot of a Show


Police Cops: The Musical
Southwark Playhouse (Borough) 
★★★★ 

Who'd have thought a comedy musical about the US police force could be so entertaining? Well, Police Cops: The Musical proves it's possible. Fresh from wowing crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe, this lively spoof of 80s American action films has now hit London.

Created by Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe, this musical takes you on a wild ride through all the clich├ęs of action movies. It follows Jimmy Johnson, a regular teenager turned aspiring 'best damn police cop ever' after a tragic loss. He sets off on a mission to take down the big bad criminals, teaming up with a retired rogue cop, jetting off to Mexico and reconnecting with his high school crush. And all of this is delivered with a relentless dose of stupendously silly comedy.

In this latest iteration of Police Cops, the original team have penned some brilliantly witty lyrics, set to a catchy score by Ben Adams of Eugenius, drawing on musical theatre tropes and classic 80s hits. Andrew Exeter's set and lighting work is magical once again, contributing to a high-energy, high-budget production.

Police Cops: The Musical is outrageously ridiculous yet impressively slick, excellently performed, and keeps you engaged throughout. The humour is silly and over the top, and the cast and crew showcase their real skill in blending comic satire with musical theatre and improv, hitting every comedic and musical beat perfectly. Through the recurring gags, hilarious stage craft and show-stopping numbers it's clear this team understands their genres and have created something uniquely entertaining by merging them. Plus, the writing is really self-aware, touching on outrageous ideas but never crossing the line.

Melinda Orengo, Natassia Bustamente and at this performance Mychele Lebrun as well, all deliver standout performances. All three seamlessly blend polished musical theatre with offbeat character comedy. Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe, the masterminds behind this show, also star in it, showcasing their versatility. Hunt, as the leading man, pours endless energy and enthusiasm into his role, while Roe's sharp comic timing and Parkinson's unhinged characters add to the laughter.

One of the most delightful aspects of Police Cops is how evident it is that the entire team is having a blast. You can often catch cast members trying to stifle their laughter, and the musical director, Gabriel Chernick, exudes such joy, especially during a hilarious improv section involving sweets!

In Ameri-conclusion, Police Cops: The Musical is an unexpected treasure, blending zany satire with polished, professional musical theatre. It's hard not to have a grin plastered on your face throughout the performance—it's an absolute blast!

Reviewed on Tuesday 19th September
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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Police Cops: The Musical at the Southwark Playhouse Review: A Hilarious Riot of a Show

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Friday, 15 September 2023

The Little Big Things at Soho Place Review: Shines as a Celebration of Disability


The Little Big Things
Soho Place
★★★★

The Little Big Things at Soho Place presents an emotional journey that triumphs in depicting the resilience of the human spirit. Based on the story of Henry Fraser as told in his 2017 memoir of the same name, the musical tracks his journey from a budding rugby player, to being paralysed from the neck down after a freak diving accident on holiday in Portugal. This production is a testament to the power of adaptation and determination, and instead of being a somewhat patronising portrayal of becoming an inspiration after a life trauma, it showcases the transition from the person Henry was pre-accident to who he became post-accident. It also looks at how Henry's family deal with the changes and features the work of the NHS as well as a small romantic subplot. Each aspect makes this a truly uplifting and charmingly British musical, which feels like it's actively trying to shy away from the typical style of storytelling that often surrounds the stories of disabled people.

Nick Butcher (music) and Tom Ling (music and lyrics) clearly have a talent for writing high energy songs and ballads that tug at your heartstrings. The music is primarily upbeat and big however, while deeply engaging during the performance, the songs don't engrave themselves into memory once the curtains fall. The performances are undoubtedly and unanimously captivating, enriching the scenes and evoking a range of emotions. However, a few standout, memorable tunes would have elevated the overall experience and resonated long after leaving the theatre.

The integration of projections and lighting (Howard Hudson) in The Little Big Things is nothing short of remarkable. The creative use of light and visuals immerses the audience into the heart of the story, enhancing the emotional impact of the narrative. The play of light and shadows amplifies the depth of the characters' struggles and triumphs, leaving a lasting visual impression.

Director Luke Sheppard fearlessly pushes the limits of accessible theatre, infusing innovation, vitality, and charisma into an already poignant narrative. The staging is in constant motion, driven by Mark Smith's lively choreography, which ingeniously integrates moments of BSL (British Sign Language) and embodies the joy and celebration which is infused throughout the show.

Despite the undeniable power of the narrative, there are moments when the production grapples with sudden transitions and dialogues that could benefit from a smoother flow. The pacing occasionally feels a bit clunky, disrupting the overall rhythm. However, this doesn't detract significantly from the musical's poignant message of resilience and adaptation.

The cast's performances are stellar, embodying the characters with authenticity and dedication. Their portrayals breathe life into the story, allowing the audience to connect deeply with the struggles and triumphs of the characters. The musical shines as a celebration of disability, showcasing the strength and adaptability required to navigate a new life.

The Little Big Things is a moving musical that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. The impeccable use of projections and lighting, along with a talented cast, creates a poignant theatrical experience. Despite minor pacing and memorability concerns, the musical stands as a heartfelt celebration of perseverance and a glowing portrayal of adapting to life's challenges. The little faults don't take away from the big things that make this show as glowing and special as it is and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone seeking a meaningful and uplifting night at the theatre, just make sure you take some tissues with you!

Reviewed on Thursday 14th September
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith
 
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The Little Big Things at Soho Place Review: Shines as a Celebration of Disability

Friday, 15 September 2023

Friday, 25 August 2023

Love Never Dies in Concert at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Review: Musicality Reigns Supreme


Love Never Dies in Concert
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
★★★★

Once again, the LMTO and Fourth Wall Live have joined forces to bring a musical to life in concert form with a stellar cast and stunning music. This time, it’s the much discussed and dissected Love Never Dies, which hasn’t been staged in the West End since 2011. For two days the Theatre Royal Drury Lane played host to the latest iteration of the show which mesmerisingly took audiences back to the world of the Phantom and Christine. With the spotlight on a talented cast, and powerful orchestrations, this concert rendition really let the music shine and provided a memorable theatrical experience for those in attendance.

With such a brilliant cast, it’s no surprise that the performances were broadly nothing short of exceptional, capturing the essence of the characters and their emotions. Celinde Schoenmaker stepped back into the role of the beloved songbird, Christine Daae and did so in an utterly magical way, with her soaring soprano perfectly bringing the score to life and dazzling throughout her time on stage. Alongside her, Broadway veteran Norm Lewis put mask back on (in this case a swanky gold number) and became the musical Phantom of the Opera once again. His gorgeous baritone vocals provided some spectacular moments, especially in the rousing Till I Hear You Sing and it’s always a treat to see him on a West End stage. It did however seem that the rock number The Beauty Underneath was not performed live, which is a bit disappointing in a show of this calibre, and it would be interesting to know what prompted this decision from the creative team. This isn’t a criticism of anyone in particular, but perhaps opens a wider conversation about how these concert versions are rehearsed and put together. Of course it’s a massive task to create such strong shows in a short amount of time and given their minimal runtime it’s understandable that the turnaround has to be fairly quick, but it would be curious to know if it’s possible to create a rehearsal process that works for everyone involved and doesn’t leave the audience feeling shortchanged.

Aside from this, the music was incredibly strong, with a number of stand out moments that brought to life the deeply evocative and emotive feelings which course through this show. As Meg Giry, Courtney Stapleton brought a lovely buoyancy and freshness which showed the character in a new and engaging light, whilst Matthew Season-Young provided some strong vocal moments as Raoul. The supporting cast, including the London Musical Theatre Chorus deserve commendation for their remarkable vocals which truly soared in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Staging wise, this was one of the less full-out concerts compared to others but it still did an excellent job of evoking the world of Phantasma and showcasing some of the whimsy of Coney Island. Rebecca Brower’s costumes were very in keeping with the gothic vibes and cleverly mirrored some of those from the original Phantom production, overall creating a dynamic atmosphere which cleverly set the place and time, without overshadowing the music.

The LMTO orchestra, under the baton of Freddie Tapner, masterfully captured the intricate emotions of the music, underscoring the characters' journeys with every note. The majestic melodies and haunting refrains were a testament to the timeless quality of Lloyd Webber's composition and it was such a treat to hear the score performed by such a large group of highly talented musicians.

While Love Never Dies has faced criticism for its narrative depth, the concert format seemed to address some of these concerns. The live performance allowed the characters to shine and their relationships to be explored with greater nuance. A lot of the plot is quite frankly ludicrous and the characters have taken complete 180s from their initial iterations but this concert format seemed to be a perfect vehicle for highlighting the strengths of the piece while minimising its perceived weaknesses.

Overall Love Never Dies in Concert, was a captivating and emotionally resonant experience. The talented cast and impeccable orchestral accompaniment combined to create a theatrical event that honoured the legacy of its predecessor while standing as a powerful production in its own right. Many of the original book issues still stand but from the audience reaction, it’s clear that this is still a show which many hold close to their hearts.

Reviewed on Tuesday 21st August 2023 by Olivia 

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Love Never Dies in Concert at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Review: Musicality Reigns Supreme

Friday, 25 August 2023

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Death Note the Musical in Concert at the London Palladium Review: An Ambitious and Engaging Evening

a testament to the creative team's dedication to translating the essence of Death Note to the stage"

Death Note the Musical (Concert) 
London Palladium
★★★★ 

In its first ever English language performance Death Note the Musical in Concert provides an engaging experience, that beautifully combines a concert style show with the allure of a full-fledged production, including captivating staging, meticulously designed costumes, and expertly executed choreography. Drawing inspiration from the iconic Death Note franchise, which originated as a manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, this musical adaptation pays homage to the rich history and context of the source material.

The exceptional cast, which include remarkable talents such as Frances Mayli McCann as Misa Amane, Dean John Wilson as L, Aimie Atkinson as Rem and Adam Pascal as Ryuk, deliver performances that breathe life into the characters. Their portrayal of the characters showcasing both their impressive vocal prowess and their deep understanding of the emotional complexities within the story which questions morality, justice and power.

While the storyline can be a bit challenging to follow, particularly for those not acquainted with the original Manga, the production's sleek execution manages to pack in a lot without feeling overwhelming. The adaptation skilfully navigates the intricate plot points, a testament to the creative team's dedication to translating the essence of Death Note to the stage.

The translation of various elements from the manga to the stage is nothing short of impressive in this truly ambitious concert debut. The show's director, Nick Winston, and the rest of the creative team, including choreographer Alexzandra Sarmiento and costume designer Will Skeet, deserve commendation for their remarkable work in seamlessly integrating these elements into the live performance. The audience's palpable elation is a testament to the success of this collaborative creative endeavour.

The pre and post-show buzz, along with the audience's enthusiastic reactions, clearly indicate that Death Note the Musical has found its niche. Wonderfully, it manages to attract those who might not typically be drawn to musicals, thanks to its connection to the established Death Note franchise and the efforts of the cast and creatives. This broad appeal speaks volumes about the production's ability to engage and captivate diverse audiences.

Admittedly, the sound balance did exhibit some issues on opening night, which can be expected with such an ambitious score. While it occasionally detracted from the overall experience, it's understandable for a complex production. Once the sound balance is finely tuned, there's no doubt that this show will achieve the impactful resonance it aims for.

Death Note the Musical in Concert at the London Palladium showcases the successful fusion of storytelling, outstanding performances, and production design. By highlighting the talents of the cast, and thanks to the creative vision, the musical celebrates the legacy of the Death Note franchise while crafting a unique and captivating theatrical experience. The show's potential to become an unforgettable sensation is evident, and with further refinements, it's poised to leave a lasting mark on the world of musical theatre and is a must see for fans of the source manga.

Reviewed on Monday 21st August 2023 by Olivia 
Photo Credit: Mark Senior

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Death Note the Musical in Concert at the London Palladium Review: An Ambitious and Engaging Evening

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Friday, 28 July 2023

The Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre Review: A Musical Celebration of Humanity

a true testament to the power of music and its ability to bring people together"

The Choir of Man
Arts Theatre 
★★★★

I recently had the pleasure of making a return visit to see The Choir of Man at the Arts theatre, a show which celebrates humanity, pubs and music in a truly joyous way. 

Although the onstage beer wasn't working at this particular performance, the setup of the Arts for this show is so well done. The audience are truly made to feel like they've entered a community hub and the pre-show interactions perfectly pave the way for the impressive show that's to follow. 

The show's concept is simple, it portrays a group of men coming together in a pub setting, sharing their stories and bonding through music. The songs are a bit random and there's not much of a through line but the seamless blend of humour, heartfelt moments, and raw emotions make this a truly memorable show, perfect for a lighthearted, fun night out.

This really is a show about friendship and the cast's camaraderie is evident throughout, with little interactions throughout coming across as truly genuine. There's also a really special connection created with the audience. The interactions with spectators, make you feel like you're part of the lively gathering, further enhancing the immersive experience.

The set and lighting design (Richard Dinnen) perfectly complement the show's no frills ambiance, transporting us to the cozy pub atmosphere where the magic unfolds. It's simple yet effective, allowing the spotlight to remain on the performers and their exceptional talents. The whole show is a vocal treat, with handfuls of glorious harmonies as well as some great dance and movement moments.

The Choir of Man is a true testament to the power of music and its ability to bring people together. It not only showcases the incredible vocal abilities of the cast but also celebrates the sense of community and brotherhood, leaving the audience with a heartwarming feeling. It's not the most cohesive or polished show, and it probably won't change your life but the overall joyous experience is exactly what we all need right now. 

This show is the perfect embodiment of live theatre. It's a really unique show that has rightfully carved out a space in the West End and deserves to be seen and celebrated. If you love music and want an hour and a half of feel-good-fun then this is the show for you!

Reviewed on Wednesday 26th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

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The Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre Review: A Musical Celebration of Humanity

Friday, 28 July 2023

Tuesday, 25 July 2023

Ride at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant Review: A Triumph of Story Telling

While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart"

Ride
Southwark Playhouse Elephant
★★★★

Embarking on a wondrous return, the dynamic musical Ride, crafted by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams, is back to captivate audiences with an enchanting odyssey like no other. Having previously seen this show as part of the Vault Festival in 2020, it's amazing to see how it has developed and become even more of a theatrical gem.

This thrilling new production delves into the extraordinary escapades of Annie Londonderry, an indomitable spirit who shattered barriers in 1895 by becoming the first woman to cycle around the globe. Fearlessly challenging societal norms and religious expectations, Annie spins a captivating tale that dances on the edge of truth and fiction, skillfully molding narratives to serve her greater cause. She fearlessly embraces her convictions, even if it means bending the boundaries of morality. Wrapped around Annie's finger from the moment the metaphorical curtain is raised, we are spellbound by her storytelling prowess.

This British masterpiece takes us on an emotional rollercoaster ride, filled with hearty laughter and unflinchingly honest revelations about life and society, leaving a profound impact. With every twist and turn, the characters' raw emotions and vulnerabilities are beautifully portrayed, drawing us into their world and ensnaring our hearts until the closing moments.

The brilliance of Ride shines through the remarkable performances of its two-person cast: Liv Andrusier as Annie and Katy Ellis as Martha. Their chemistry is palpable, and they breathe life into their characters with heartfelt authenticity. Liv's portrayal of Annie is a multi-dimensional masterpiece, blending determination and defiance as she navigates a male-dominated world, striving to be heard. Her captivating Bostonian drawl lures us in, and her vocal prowess keeps us enchanted as she flawlessly delivers the demanding score, showcasing a masterclass in acting through song.

Under the direction of Sarah Meadows, Liv's performance radiates authenticity, leaving no doubt that this role was destined for her. Her portrayal of Annie exudes old Hollywood star quality, and her stage presence is truly remarkable.

Katy Ellis skilfully takes on the role of Martha. With comic flair and charming wit, Ellis brings Martha's thoughts to life, infusing the character with delightful nuance. While Annie weaves the narrative, Martha's hesitance and humorous antics provide the perfect balance, eliciting laughter from the audience. Throughout the show, Katy astounds as she embodies various characters in Annie's story, infusing each with unique purpose and unveiling layers of compassion, empathy, and a hint of romance.

Both Liv and Katy breathe a profound humanity into these characters, capturing the hearts of the audience. Their nuanced performances are a testament to their immense talent and dedication, leaving us in awe of their emotional range.

The minimalist yet ingenious set design by Amy Jane Cook effortlessly transports us to multiple locations, aided by clever use of props and set pieces that set our imaginations free. Matt Powell's projections expand the space, while Andrew Johnson's sound design adds an extra layer of brilliance, spotlighting the subtlest of sounds.

At the heart and soul of Ride lies its soul-stirring music. The mesmerising melodies and emotionally charged lyrics take us on an unforgettable journey, resonating deeply within us. While some musical moments may seem repetitive, they ultimately deliver an emotional and vocal punch, showcasing the brilliance of new British compositions.

Ride is an absolute triumph of storytelling, talent, and artistic vision. This emotionally charged musical takes us on a profound journey of self-reflection and connection. While it may not boast the grandeur of a West End spectacle, its simplicity and sincerity are what set it apart. Ride showcases the very essence of what theatre can offer, leaving us yearning to relive this magical journey again and again.

Reviewed on Monday 24th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Danny Kaan

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Ride at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant Review: A Triumph of Story Telling

Tuesday, 25 July 2023

Monday, 17 July 2023

Diva Exhibition at the V&A Museum Review: A Majestic Showcase of Feminine Power and Artistry

a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas"


DIVA
Victoria and Albert Museum 
★★★★★ 

The newest exhibition at the V&A, Diva is an absolute treat, immersing visitors in the captivating world of awe-inspiring women who have enchanted us with their extraordinary talents, strength, and charisma.

From the moment you step into the exhibition hall, you truly feel a part of the glamour and empowerment. Split into two acts, the first being historical context of diva’s and the second focussing on the modern day artists, this enchanting journey through the lives and legacies of iconic divas is really awe-inspiring.

The curation of Diva is exceptionally well done. Skilfully interweaving various disciplines such as music, film, fashion, and photography as well as showcasing objects alongside outfits to tell personal and intriguing stories. The exhibit creates a multi-dimensional experience that effortlessly transports visitors into the captivating world of these remarkable women. Every display is meticulously crafted, capturing the very essence of the divas, their defining moments, and their profound contributions to popular culture. With 60 costumes and 250 items spanning from the 19th century to today, there is so much to take in and a number of highlights to be found throughout. Some personal favourites included the various Bob Mackie designs, which are accompanied by original artwork, Elton John's Louis XIV-inspired 50th birthday party look and the fringed black dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot in 1959.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas. From the elaborate stage costumes that exude the flamboyance of performers like Madonna and Lady Gaga, to the intimate handwritten letters and personal diaries that offer a glimpse into the private lives of divas like Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, each piece on display serves as a testament to their unrivalled greatness.

What sets the Diva exhibition apart is its unwavering commitment to highlighting the immense cultural impact of these trailblazing women. It delves deep into how these divas challenged societal norms, shattered glass ceilings, and emerged as symbols of empowerment for generations of women. Through interactive displays and thought-provoking installations, visitors are invited to reflect on the ongoing struggle for equality and the profound power of self-expression.

The audiovisual elements of the exhibition are incredibly effective. As you stroll through the halls, you’re treated to a symphony of iconic performances and interviews playing on large screens, perfectly complementing the visual feast before you. The accompanying soundtrack, carefully curated from the divas' most unforgettable hits, transports you through time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the journey.

The meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of the exhibition is truly praiseworthy. From the thoughtfully crafted lighting and set design that immerses visitors in a captivating ambiance to the informative plaques offering historical context, the Diva exhibition ensures an enriching experience that not only entertains but also educates about the indelible impact these women have made on the world.

The V&A Museum has truly surpassed expectations with the Diva exhibition, serving as a remarkable tribute to the enduring influence of these extraordinary women. Whether you're an avid fan of a specific diva or simply intrigued by the diverse tapestry of female talent, this exhibition is an absolute must-see. Be prepared to be dazzled and inspired by the unwavering spirit and artistic brilliance of the divas who have left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape.

Seamlessly weaves together art, history, and music, paying homage to the iconic women who have redefined what it means to be a diva, this exhibition is a must visit. Get ready to be enthralled, uplifted, and deeply moved by this extraordinary showcase of feminine power and artistry.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Anna Gordon

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Diva Exhibition at the V&A Museum Review: A Majestic Showcase of Feminine Power and Artistry

Monday, 17 July 2023

A Strange Loop at the Barbican review: An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Self-Discovery

a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds."

A Strange Loop
Barbican Centre
★★★★

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an absolutely remarkable production that pushes the boundaries of theatre and delves deep into the complexities of identity, self-worth, and the human experience. From the moment the curtains opened, I was captivated by the raw and unapologetic exploration of the protagonist, Usher’s psyche.

This is a show which is really reliant on a united and strong cast and thankfully the performances throughout are super strong. The entire cast deliver powerful, emotionally charged portrayals. Due to the nature of the show, it may not directly resonate with the audience but the cast do an astounding job of making you feel for Usher’s story and really connect on a profound level. Each actor skilfully brings their character to life, blending humour, vulnerability, and intense introspection in perfect harmony. The energy on stage is infectious, and you really find yourself absorbed in the story.

The writing by Michael R. Jackson is truly effective. With a script that flawlessly combines witty dialogue, thought-provoking monologues, and catchy musical numbers to create a narrative which effectively mirrors the issues broached throughout. A Strange Loop tackles themes of race, sexuality, self-doubt, and societal expectations with unflinching honesty, making it a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds.

The staging and set design (Arnulfo Maldonado) are brilliantly executed, utilising minimalistic elements to create a visually striking and versatile backdrop for the story. There are times when the stage feels underused but toward the end of the musical, it’s really stretched to its limits and is so impactful. The imaginative use of lighting (Jen Schriever) adds another layer of depth to the production, enhancing the emotional impact of each scene.

Furthermore, the direction by Stephen Brackett brings out the best in the cast and the material. The pacing ensures that every moment lands with the intended impact, at times causing a collective gasp from the audience. Brackett's vision seamlessly integrates the music, choreography, and storytelling, resulting in a cohesive and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

While A Strange Loop may not resonate with everyone, it has the power to profoundly impact those who are open to engaging with challenging themes. This production serves as a powerful testament to the transformative nature of theatre, as it encourages introspection, sparks meaningful conversations, and fosters empathy among its viewers.

If I were to have any reservation in giving it a perfect five-star rating, it would be that the complexity of the narrative and the rapid pace of the production might make it slightly difficult for some audience members to fully grasp the subtleties of the story. However, I firmly believe that this should not dissuade anyone from experiencing this groundbreaking piece of theatre during its limited run.

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an audacious and unforgettable production that dares to push the boundaries of what theatre can achieve. In just an hour and forty minutes, it fearlessly challenges societal norms, delves deep into internal struggles, and ultimately celebrates the triumphant journey of self-discovery. Prepare to be moved, thoroughly entertained, and enlightened as you embark on this hypnotic exploration of the human psyche.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

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A Strange Loop at the Barbican review: An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Self-Discovery