Sideshow at the Southwark Playhouse
The Southwark Playhouse is the go-to venue when I am looking for quirky and slightly off-beat productions. Last year it played host to the wonderfully eclectic Grey Gardens, starring Sheila Hancock, and is now staging the colourful and moving musical, Sideshow, on until the 3rd December.
Sideshow comes to London via Broadway, where it originally scooped up four Tony awards. It’s written by Bill Russell, with music by Henry Krieger (of Dreamgirls fame), and it’s based on the lives of conjoined twins and vaudeville stars of the 1930s, Daisy and Violet Hilton.
Daisy and Violet are acts in a sideshow, together with a who’s who worthy of an X-Men film: Tattoo Girl, Bearded Lady, Lizard Man, Half Woman-Half Man, Fortune Teller, Three-Legged Man, Human Pin Cushion and Dog Boy. Ringmaster “Sir” is the villain and bully of the piece, whilst Jake, who is in love with Violet, is also the girls’ protector.
Musician Buddy and talent scout Terry eventually lure the sisters away to vaudeville, and they become an overnight sensation. Buddy proposes to Violet but tries to back out at the last moment. The sisters are wooed by MGM to star in a film called Freaks. Fuelled by the fame and success the marriage could bring, they decide to go ahead despite the fact that it looks like Buddy might be gay.
The set is beautiful, a backdrop of twinkling lightbulbs reminiscent of a glamorous Hollywood dressing room. It’s easy to believe the girls really are joined at the hip through clever costume design, and thanks to the beautifully synchronized performances of Louise Dearman (Daisy) and Laura Pitt-Pulford (Violet). There are some great musical scores including the opening sequence, “Come Look at the Freaks,” and the heartbreaking and poignant “Who will love me as I am?”
Verdict: I was blown away by the mesmerising performance of Pitt-Pulford; the staging and score ain’t bad either! Take a few tissues with you – I dare you not to shed a tear or two. Expect a lot of goosebumps too.
Note: Laura Pitt-Pulford will be appearing as saucy Nell Gwynn in the Globe’s sell-out production which goes on tour 1st March to 29th April 2017. Check Globe – Nell Gwynn for details.
Amadeus at the National Theatre
Am I the only person in the UK who didn’t like Amadeus?
I really wanted to love this: would there be an Ian McKellen, a David Suchet or an F. Murray Abraham as Salieri, or a Simon Callow or Tim Curry as Mozart? The film version of the play bagged eight Oscars and four Golden Globes, and has a Grammy-winning musical score which includes the top of the Mozart charts. You would be hard pushed to know the stage version was all about Mozart if you closed your eyes and listened.
I couldn’t connect or empathise with Lucian Msamati’s Salieri, and I was bothered by his accent, morphing from Italian to African and back again within a sentence. You couldn’t help but fall in love with Mozart in the film version, despite Tom Hulce’s juvenile, spoilt and frivolous portrayal. Adam Gillen whined his way through the production, prancing punk-like around the stage, an obsene, open-mouthed, foul version of Mozart with a serious speech impediment. Mozart’s wife Constanze, played by Karla Crome, is supposed to be childishly seductive and feminine, yet she appeared flat, wooden and bored.
I’m also embarrassed to say that I had one of my very rare, but deadly giggling fits, the ones where the tears silently pour down the face, where the most tragic of scenes makes my body heave in a silent guffaw. At least I wasn’t asked to leave, which is exactly what happened at the Roundhouse production of Orfeo two years ago.
OK, it wasn’t all bad. The staging was a success, with the Southbank Sinfonia orchestra cast not just as musicians but also as members of the public, as stage and prop movers and even as supporting actors. Geoffrey Beevers was excellent as Baron Gottfried, and Tom Edden was a comical Joseph II.
Verdict: Forget the stage version and buy the Amadeus film on DVD. Pair with your own Venus nipples from Rococo Chocolates, and get stuck in a most satisfyingly indulgent choco-flick combo.