Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mairi Barclay. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mairi Barclay. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday 3 November 2023

Lizzie at the Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) Review: A Bloody Good Time

Southwark Playhouse (Elephant) 

A transfer from the Hope Mill Theatre, Lizzie boasts a cast that impresses with their strong vocals and well-defined characterisations. The performers do an excellent job bringing their characters to life and infusing the show with their energy and passion, making it an engaging experience for the audience.

The musical takes inspiration from the infamous Lizzie Borden case and the story revolves around Lizzie Borden and her sister; exploring the mysteries and events leading up to the gruesome murders of their parents. It delves into themes of murder, mystery, and the complexities of human nature, all set against a rock opera backdrop. With a gripping narrative, powerful performances, and a thrilling atmosphere, Lizzie invites the audience to step into a world where dark secrets are uncovered, and the truth is as elusive as the swing of an axe.

One of the standout features of Lizzie is the striking lighting design and stage setup by Andrew Exeter, which, particularly during the climactic moments of Act One, leave you breathless with its deathly allure. The lighting and set design effectively create an atmosphere that's visually captivating and in keeping with both the rock musical vibes, and the traditional 1800s setting of the story.

While William Whelton's choreography wields a sharp blade and  is executed very well, it sometimes feels like it's hacking away at a different story, leaving us with a tenuous connection. It adds some movement and visual appeal, but it doesn't fully meld with the narrative.

Direction wise though, Whelton has approached the show at a fun angle, melding massive arena concert energy with traditional musical theatre techniques. The energy is consistently high and despite knowing the ending, you're still on the edge of your seat, awaiting the next thrilling act. The use of handheld microphones is a cool twist on the storytelling, and hung in holsters at their sides it's almost as if the ladies are wielding them as potential murder weapons. However, when they're actually in use, it doesn't always make sense within the context of the show, I think it would be more effective if it was made clear that they were symbolising inner most thoughts or something of the like. 

This really is a girl power musical and each character in the production is well-defined, allowing the audience to connect with their individual stories and motivations. The attention to detail in the character development adds depth to the overall performance, revealing layers like peeling back the pages of a forbidden diary.

The cast deliver exceptional performances, with each woman commanding the stage with finesse. As this performance, Lizzie Borden was played by Emma Louise Hoey who seamlessly transitions from innocence and sweetness to sheer and utter madness. Her expressive eyes, and body tics convey a myriad of emotions, and every movement she makes skilfully illustrates her transformation into the manic killer fully. There's also a real level of innocence woven throughout the character and despite her gruesome act and obvious manipulation, you can't help but root for her. Vocally, Emma is marvellous, providing literal killer vocals with ease and conviction.

Shekinah McFarlane shines as Lizzie's sister, particularly in Act 2, showcasing her superb vocal prowess, that peaks and troughs in all the right places. For vocal masterclasses, this truly is the show to see. It's certainly a trend, as Mairi Barclay also astounds with her killer voice, as Bridget Sullivan. Barclay not only gets to showcase her impressive vocal range but also adds a touch of humour to this otherwise dark drama, often subtly encouraging Lizzie to commit the heinous acts in clever and witty ways, even if her motivations remain somewhat ambiguous. As Lizzie's friend Alice Russell, Maiya Quansah-Breed's performance is nuanced and heartfelt, offering a soothing contrast to the intense and rage-filled numbers that punctuate the show.

Rachel Tansey's costumes are notably well-executed, dressing the characters for their gruesome deeds and helping transport the audience back in time to the historical setting, where every outfit feels like a well-prepared disguise.

Musically Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner have created songs which sound great in the moment but aren't particularly memorable. Lyrically they are fast-paced and super action packed, sometimes to their detriment. So much is crammed in that you don't know what to focus on so things come across somewhat disjointed.

However, despite its minor shortcomings, Lizzie manages to transform the intimate Southwark Playhouse into a high-energy rock concert experience that's a crime of passion, making it a unique and memorable theatrical event that keeps you on edge and engaged.

Reviewed on Thursday 2nd November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

Thursday 1 March 2018

Pippin, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Wednesday 28th February 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Based on the real-life story of Prince Pepin and his father, King Charlemagne, Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs to find adventure, fulfilment and passion in his life. To prove himself to his distracted father, Pippin goes to war. He finds no fulfilment there so when the Leading Player convinces him to fight tyranny, Pippins kills his father and takes over the throne. 

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O Hirson and original direction by Bob Fosse, Pippin brings spectacle, comedy and whimsy to the transformed Southwark Playhouse. Maeve Black's set complete with a false proscenium and footlight bulbs around the tongue of the stage, has transformed The Large into a magical, slightly decrepit playground of mystery.

Braving the snow, I enjoyed this production despite feeling it took a little while to get into. The story is fast paced and full of intricacies but the varying styles and scenes are a bit too much of a mish-mash to be fully cohesive.

However, the performances are stellar across the board. Genevieve Nicholas is absolutely outstanding as the Leading Player. Poised to pounce and vocally faultless she commands the stage every second she's on it. She is very dynamic alongside Jonathan Carlton in the title role who sings the role perfectly as well as having great comic timing and stage presence. The two bounce off one another and have a sort of unsettling relationship.

Mention must also go to Bradley Judge as Lewis, Pippin's brother, and Mairi Barclay as Fastrada and Berthe who both nailed the comedic side as well as providing some scene stealing vocal moments. As director, Jonathan O'Boyle has done a wonderful job of bringing the small cast together to create something electric and well as showcasing individual talents.

Choreographer William Whelton has stuck to the shows iconic past, with Bob Fosse's choreography central to the action but has brought a somewhat modern twist with some sharp, almost frantic movements at times.

Whilst the jumpiness of the book does let this show down at times, this production is like nothing else I've seen on a London stage recently and for that reason it must be applauded. The cast do an outstanding job and the razzle-dazzle of the costumes and in-your-face lights by Aaron J. Dootson do a wonderful job of wowing the audience.

For a magical, mystical, whimsical show that will surprise, make sure you get along to the Southwark Playhouse for the limited run of Pippin.

photo credit: Pamela Raith