Troilus And Cressida – May 2008

2/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Declan Donnellan

Company: Cheek By Jowl

Venue: Barbican Theatre

Date: Saturday 31st May 2008

The set was the same basic layout as for Boris Godunov, with five strips of some marbled spongy fabric laid lengthways down the stage. (I checked this in the interval – it felt like textured paper, like heavy wallpaper, but from the way it hung, I’m not sure exactly what it was. The black stuff underneath seemed to be the spongy bit.) To our right, the outer four strips curved up to the ceiling, while the fifth appeared to be cut off and lifted up to create a canopy over the entrance formed by the gap. To our left, the central three strips formed right angles and rose vertically, but were staggered to create gaps. Colour wise, they were a marbled cream. Four grey stools/tables placed in what might loosely be called the corners of the stage completed the layout at the beginning. As it turned out, these larger stools were made up from four individual stools, and these were moved around, turned over, and even cleaned (by Thersites) as required.

Now I should mention here that I can only report on the first half of this production, and then only on the parts that I was actually awake for. It’s a play with difficult language to get across, the afternoon was humid, and the Barbican facilities and management not up to the standard of old, although the temporary seating was much more comfortable than I remember (which doesn’t actually help with the snoozing option, of course). For that matter, the production itself wasn’t up to much, with just a few interesting points which I will record below, and with me being well into my menopausal phase, a little thing like being told I couldn’t take our ice creams into the auditorium was enough to put me off the second half. I decided I could snooze just as well in the foyer as in my seat (I hadn’t realised that drum practice was on the agenda), but I insisted that Steve sit through the rest of it and report back (see below).

So, what was the production actually like? Helen herself gave us the prologue, although as I didn’t know it was her at the time I can’t tell if that had any significance. She walked down the stage, from left to right as we saw it, before speaking. She looked gorgeous in a white strapless gown, fitted to just below the hips with flounces to the floor. Long white gloves completed the outfit, and it was clear we were in for modern dress. The prologue goes into some detail on place names that didn’t mean much to me, and there were a number of soldiers who arrived on stage around whom she was delivering her speech – I don’t remember who they were, presumably generic soldiers, although they may have been meant to represent actual characters. I suspect not, though, as later on they took the trouble to bring characters on to the stage when they were being talked about, so we would know who was who; if they were meant to be doing that during the prologue it needs some work.

The opening discussion between Troilus and Pandarus was a bit dull. The characters’ motivations weren’t at all clear to me. We did get to see Cressida during this, and as Troilus and Pandarus talked, she and another actor mimed her father’s leaving, which did make her situation painfully clear. After Troilus leaves, Cressida then talks with Pandarus. He tries to persuade her to fancy Troilus, while she focuses all her attention on Hector. Both of these actors come on stage, Hector first, and they do some sword practice while the other two talk. Then there’s the parade of Trojan nobility, which Pandarus hopes will turn Cressida’s head. Various people come onto the stage from our left and, in the case of smartly dressed Paris and the beautiful Helen, accept the crowd’s enthusiastic applause like any pair of self-regarding vacuous celebrities (boy that menopause is really kicking in now). I was distracted during this bit as someone had been let in late (despite emails being sent out warning that this wouldn’t be allowed, so be here on time or miss out!), and he was having a discussion with the people right behind us about where his seat was. After a ridiculously long time, he moved to a vacant seat in row B, and we were finally able to focus back on the play.

Pandarus was on the steps to our left, Cressida on the steps far right, so they had their private chat talking loudly across the stage at each other. This was fine, as it meant I could hear perfectly, not always easy with this sort of layout. The soldiers who entered not only accepted the cheers from the crowd, they stood on the stools to give the masses a chance to properly admire them. Troilus in particular came across as quite wimpish in this company, but still managed to snaffle a stool ahead of Hector. One point to note here was that I wouldn’t have known from this scene that Cressida was actually dead keen on Troilus herself, and was only pretending to prefer Hector to wind Pandarus up. I mean that both in terms of her behaviour while talking with Pandarus, and from the little speech she has at the end of the scene, telling all to the audience. Good job I know the play.

The next scene was presumably cut to the bone. It’s often very tedious, and this version wasn’t the best nor the worst. Various Greek warlords strut their stuff, then Aeneas arrives with a challenge from Hector aimed at luring Achilles into single combat. There’s potential to show a lot about the relationships between the Greek leaders, but either this was lacking, or I missed it because the width of the stage meant that too many actors were effectively out of sight for large parts of the scene.

Achilles was being played more like a bureaucrat than anything else. He handed out papers to support his argument about the divided nature of the Greek forces, and was remarkably diffident about making his points. Apparently he thought his silver tongue wasn’t as effective as a spreadsheet with accompanying footnotes. He also laid out a couple of photos of Ulysses and Patroclus in compromising intimacy (they were too small to get any detail, sorry), but given the Greek attitudes to man on man action, I doubt that it’s the indecency that would figure in his argument so much as the waste of valuable fighting time (as recorded on the timesheets which this Ulysses has no doubt filed away meticulously in his tent).

One nice touch with this portrayal was the way Ulysses took the written challenge and started tinkering with it, reading it carefully and considering how to spin it to their advantage, i.e. to get Achilles out of bed and killing Trojans. The idea of Ulysses as a subtle Greek spin doctor has its attractions. Sadly the rest of his performance undermined the benefits, and the rest of the Greeks were unremarkable.

Now we get Thersites and the Greeks. At first I thought they’d cast a woman as Thersites, but once ‘she’ spoke I realised this is a tranny Thersites, all the more impressive because he/she’s done up in a blue boiler suit and wears rubber gloves. Admittedly the makeup and long plait help the female persona, but the voice is still too butch to mistake him for her. Imagine a bitter and rancorous Lily Savage dressing down as a caretaker, and if you haven’t fainted from shock you’ll have a pretty good idea of the character.

Ajax, that well-known cleaning fluid, would seem like an ideal companion for Thersites in this mode, but they just don’t get along. ‘She’ even spits in his coffee. Mind you, it took me a while to penetrate the thick, and somewhat variable accent that Ajax was hiding his lines in – good job this was a captioned performance. Turns out he’s Scottish! And Lily Thersites is Scouse. I wasn’t aware of any other specific accents, so why these choices? Just another baffling point that got in the way of enjoying the play.

They were doing the usual trick of bringing the next scene’s characters on just before the previous scene finishes, which you would have thought would have shortened the running time from the three hours twenty it’s currently at. However, this time they bring on Priam, on his sick bed, for the debate on How Do You Solve A Problem Like Helen? Paris gets a good slap from Priam, which was the best bit of the scene, and Cassandra has a good rant, showing off her knickers to all and sundry as various brothers try to haul her off. Not a great scene, but at least I stayed awake through it.

Now it’s back to the Greeks, with Thersites showing he’s not biased, because he rants at Patroclus as well, while the latter is doing his tai chi practice. The Greek generals arrive, and talk for quite a while, trying to get Achilles to get his act together, but no luck, and no entertainment value either. Then Pandarus has his chat with Helen and Paris. These two came on with the entourage for a photo shoot, and posed for several minutes while lackeys did their hair and makeup, positioned their frocks, etc. Frankly, although this was very entertaining, I confess I can’t remember anything else about this scene – what the characters discussed, why Pandarus wanted to talk to them in the first place, nothing. As such, this scene effectively represents the whole of the production, at least as much as I saw of it, and from Steve’s comments later, the rest of it as well.

Given the lack of anything remotely interesting happening on stage, it’s no surprise that the next scene, where Troilus and Cressida meet for the first time, was where I started to lose the will to stay awake. I did my best, but the stuffiness, the unintelligible delivery of the lines, and the bland acting all conspired to lull me away to dreamland – a much more profitable experience, trust me.

Steve’s views on the second half were not much different. The characters were not coming across clearly as different people, and he wouldn’t have rated the performance much higher than I did, if at all. Thersites’ Lily Savage resemblance was emphasised in the second half, as ‘she’ dressed up for the party between the Greeks and Trojans (don’t they know there’s a war on?) in Helen’s flouncy frock, and wore a large blond wig.

For a sell-out, there were quite a few seats empty at the start, and even more after the interval, with an almost embarrassing lack of applause at the end. Troilus and Cressida were coming back on for another set of bows when the clapping had all but stopped. Still, some of the critics liked it, so that’s all right then.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Cherry Orchard – May 2008

6/10

By Anton Chekov

Directed by Philip Franks

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Tuesday 27th May 2008

It’s always a shame when a theatre like Chichester gets a great cast together, and then fails to do something really tremendous with them, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. To be fair, this wasn’t a dreadful production, and given our experience of the Nicholas Nickleby from the last two years, it may be it just needs more time to settle in.

The set was very sparse, with lots of silvery wood everywhere, stairs down at the back right, and some chairs and tables, together with a bookcase for the nursery scenes. For these scenes, a panel above the stage opened up, like a shutter rising, and a pair of cherry tree branches laden with blossom were displayed. They did look a bit like stag antlers, and there was no actual tree trunk on view, but as a symbol it worked very well, I thought. For the other scenes the furniture was changed much as would be expected, and there was one bright splash of colour for the party, as the curtains screening the rear of the stage were a vivid red.

Sadly, none of the performances were quite as vibrant, except for Jemma Redgrave as Varya, the adopted daughter, who was the best of the bunch. She portrayed someone who worries tremendously, but has a good heart, and who cares deeply for her adoptive family. Her suffering over the non-proposal by Lopakhin was moving, although I did feel they hadn’t quite worked out why he wasn’t going the distance with her. All the other performances were fine, but they didn’t gel into a coherent whole for me.

I enjoyed the magic tricks – Maureen Lipman did very well – and I did get a sense of the inexorable changes that were tearing these people away from the land they felt was theirs, but which they’d become too complacent and corrupt to take proper care of. I also liked John Nettleton’s Simeonov-Pishchik, always trying to get a loan. He reminded me of the choreographer in the ballet novels by Brahms and Simon, who’s always asking people to “’schange small scheque?” Hopefully this production will come on with more performances, but as it is, we were slightly disappointed.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Pitmen Painters – May 2008

8/10

By Lee Hall, inspired by a book by William Feaver

Directed by Max Roberts

Venue: Cottesloe Theatre

Date: Thursday 22nd May 2008

I was bowled over by the first half of this production. The humour, the characters and the painting were all magnificent. I felt the second half lost it a little bit, especially during the last scene, but the overall impression was of a really good play superbly performed. I cried, I laughed, I marvelled at the talent for painting. What more could anyone want from an afternoon at the theatre? Well, a male life model would have been nice, I suppose, but then he would have stuck out like a sore thumb in this play.

The story is a simple one, but I’ve always found this sort of thing tremendously moving. Not that there was a scrap of sentimentality on show – these were all straight-talking northerners, none of that fancy emotional stuff for them. Instead of help and support from the rest of the painting group, the members could expect only fierce criticism and downright hostility, with the odd bit of grudging praise thrown in from time to time – don’t blink or you’d miss it.

The play follows the group from their start as an art appreciation class in 1933, through their experiments with making art themselves, and finishes at the end of WW2, with socialism and the Allies both triumphant and looking eagerly forward to a better future. The stage was a large shed, with folding chairs and not much else in the way of comforts. Three screens above the stage showed us the art works in question, and my first sight of their work almost took my breath away. Oliver Kilburn’s linotype of a miner hewing coal underground was strong, dynamic and well composed. Other works were equally amazing, for folk with no training at all. They clearly had great talent within the group, although they kept it all on an amateur footing.

Their tutor for these sessions, Robert Lyon, was a posh university type, who started off by showing slides of Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo. These overblown pictures need some training to appreciate, and they certainly didn’t grab the miners’ attention. Despite concerns that the rules didn’t allow the working folk taking these classes to do anything that might be considered ‘useful’, Lyon persuaded the powers that be to allow an experiment for this class – the students were only making art as a way of understanding the processes that the ‘proper’ artists went through. The results were indeed phenomenal, and Lyon did very well out of the group, getting a proper professorship, as well as writing and lecturing on the experiment, and basking in the reflected glory of their achievements.

All of these aspects were covered in the play, as well as the fickleness of the art collectors who are always looking for the next new thing. The character of Helen Sutherland, an art collector, turns up at the first class where Lyon has booked a life model, and her comments are generally supportive. The men’s attitudes to her are ambivalent, while they’re completely divided on the subject of life modelling. George Brown wants the young lady to keep her clothes on – shop steward type, devoted to his rule book – while the others seem either OK with it or really keen. The first half ends with the model throwing off her robe and posing for a brief second before the lights go out.

During the second half we see the group’s interest in art, and their keen eye, develop. They’re not afraid to speak their minds, whether the art they see is fashionable or not, and their direct relationship with the pictures, old or modern, gave me some of the best insights I’ve ever had into modern art, or at least the art that was modern in their day. Oliver Kilburn’s description of what the artist was trying to achieve with a piece which was basically a grey circle inside a grey square, was enlightening, although the fact that I couldn’t make out what medium was used was rather frustrating. Was it a painting? Was it a sculpture? Either way, his perspective was very illuminating, and I’m grateful for that, and for the affirmation that we don’t have to know  a lot to be able to enjoy art. The other fun part was during the students’ trip to London, where they visited an exhibition of Chinese art, which has very strong traditions and rules. Lyon was dismissive of the work on view, but the group were able to express clearly what this type of art is about, showing individual expression in subtle ways, where each tiny difference from the long tradition of the past is a major leap forward for the artist. I like Chinese art anyway, but it was good to hear it championed so effectively.

Not all of the group were miners. One, Harry Wilson, was a dental technician, having been invalided out of WWI, and another was a young lad who was related to George Brown, and ended up going off to fight when the war started. I wasn’t clear what this character was meant to be doing in the group, although there was some good comedy around his participation. He didn’t get involved in the painting – we never saw any of his work – and his death appeared to have had very little effect on the other characters. He just seemed to tail off. Still, the rest of the characters more than made up for it. One of my favourite lines was in response to Robert Lyon’s suggestion that the group could vote on some matter that was dividing them. “This is a democracy – we don’t take votes” was George Brown’s emphatic conclusion.

The issues discussed throughout the play covered an amazing range. The effect of supporting artists financially is explored through a meeting between Ben Nicholson and Oliver Kilburn, whom Helen Sutherland has offered to support via a stipend so he can paint full time. Nicholson paints a different picture, one where the paid artist has to work according to his patron’s wishes, and his frustration at being stifled was clear to see. Later on, the way Helen drops the group once they’re ‘in’, as she goes in pursuit of the next unknown, is a clear warning of the dangers faced by anyone relying on her financial support.

There’s also the question of ‘good’ art, and who gets to decide this – that runs throughout the play – and the ticklish question of whether anyone could do what these men had done, or whether they were just exceptionally gifted. Lyon’s point of view was that, given the chance, all people could produce art to this standard, while the group felt that was rubbish, they just happened to be bloody good at it! I took Robert Lyon’s point – there is a lot of talent that even now isn’t being discovered or nurtured fully, but perhaps not so many people would come up with such powerful work as this group did without some sort of training, so they definitely were exceptional.

This is such a rich piece that I can’t put down everything that happened, but the warmth and enjoyment will stay with me for a long time. A superb production, and a great play.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Boris Godunov – May 2008

8/10

By Alexander Pushkin

Directed by Declan Donnellan

Company: Cheek By Jowl

Venue: Barbican Theatre

Date: Saturday 17th May 2008

I knew nothing about this play except for its name, and that it was Russian. It was also being done by Russian actors, in Russian. Given my experiences during the RSC’s Complete Works festival, it’s surprising I chose to go to this, but we do like Cheek by Jowl’s work – the Twelfth Night had been exceptionally good. So here I was, knowing nothing of what was to come, but looking forward to a new experience.

Our seats were on the Barbican stage. Actually, the temporary seating ran down both sides of the stage, the former auditorium was screened off, and the acting space was a long narrow platform sandwiched between the two. Still, I can always claim I’ve been on stage at the Barbican, if I ever feel the need.

As we came in, there was a church service in progress at the far end of the platform, to our left as we sat down. Russian Orthodox – lots of beards, incense and chanting. To our right, a man sat at a table, tapping away on a battered old typewriter. I took this to be Pushkin, writing the masterpiece we were about to see, but that wasn’t quite it. The chanting continued for some time, and then the lights dimmed as two characters began the play. Dressed in modern suits, they were talking about Boris Godunov having killed the heir to the throne, Dmitry, and how the people would want Boris to become their next ruler. For those familiar with Shakespeare, this was home ground. I was a little confused by the way one of the characters, a prince, was also interacting with Boris as he told the other chap what he’d seen of the heir’s murder. He and Boris played some game with their hands over the crown, which sat on a small throne between the church area and the table. Then Boris removed the crown, and sat on the throne himself. After that, he became colder towards the prince, but I don’t know whether this was based on the prince’s own description of events or a parallel piece of action. Anyway, it was clear that these two characters, both members of the royal family, consider themselves to have better claims to the throne than ambitious Boris. However, the people love him, so it’s Boris’s crown.

After the church stuff is all cleared away, the man at the typewriter starts to talk. Apparently he’s a monk who’s lived through Ivan the Terrible’s reign, as well as his son Feodor’s, and he’s been writing a history of the events so that the Russian people will know about their past. There’s a young lad with him. He came to the monastery as a boy and looks after the older man, despite having one arm shorter than the other – he holds his left arm awkwardly. When the monk gives him the history, telling him to carry on the work, he decides to run away, and possibly plans to become Czar himself – both Steve and I were a bit unsure on this point. The surtitles were very useful, but it was easy to miss a line or two when we were caught up in the action. Anyway, the young man ends up at the Russian/Lithuanian border, and is nearly caught by the officers of the law, who have a written description of the man they’re looking for. Being able to read, he lies about the description to try and throw suspicion on someone else as the runaway, but this other chap remembers enough of his learning to give an alternative version of the officer’s orders, and the young man has to fight to escape. It’s not exactly clear what happens. He seemed to give the officer a jab in the neck, so that he could hardly talk, but then the action shifted to the next scene.

From here the play really began to hook me. The young man pretends to be Dmitry, the deceased heir, and for all sorts of reasons, people believe him. Most importantly, the kings of neighbouring countries choose to support him, and are prepared to provide troops to help him regain ‘his’ throne. Disaffected Russians also flock to him, and there’s a lovely scene where he greets the representatives of various groups who’ve come to offer him their support. It was clearly done in public, and done to make the most of the tributes – a photo-op.

To seal the deal, a Polish nobleman offers to marry his beautiful daughter to ‘Dmitry’. He’s pretty keen, she’s definitely keen, already seeing herself as Czarina, and they have an intimate scene beside a pool that’s appeared in the middle of the stage. He’s torn by doubt – should he tell her the truth or not? Will she love him as he is, or does she only love him because she thinks he’s the heir to the Russian throne? Eventually he decides to confess, and she’s horrified. She has no intention of marrying a peasant! However, she’s also politically astute, and comes to realise that he may be a fake, but he’s a powerful fake, with a good chance of becoming the real Czar, so she better get on board before the train leaves the station. I remember them ending up in the pool, getting very wet, though I’m not sure now how all that related to the dialogue. By this time I was finding it hard to keep an eye on the surtitles as there was so much happening on stage.

The final scenes covered the fighting over the throne, and were back to being confusing. From what I could understand, the fake Dmitry’s forces are defeated and he’s killed, though whether this is after he’d successfully claimed the throne or not, I couldn’t tell. The program notes inform us that he did actually rule for a short time before being ousted, so I assume that’s what the play was telling us.

These Russian actors certainly know how to make the most of their curtain calls. There were a number of bouquets  handed over, and not just to the ladies. Evgeny Mironov who played the pretender received several of them, and the whole cast took their time to revel in the applause, which was pretty strong.

I enjoyed this performance much more than I thought I would, and I may be more willing to check out foreign productions in future (but don’t bet on it).

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Business Of Murder – May 2008

6/10

By Richard Harris

Directed by Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Friday 16th May 2008

Steve and I saw this play years ago, when it was in the West End, the old Mayfair Theatre, Steve reckons. I couldn’t remember the details at all, just that Richard Todd played a creepy type with specs and a ‘tache. It made it all the more enjoyable to see it tonight. It’s a very well constructed play, and this was a decent production. Some of the twists were visible in advance, some I didn’t get till the end.

Nick Waring was a suitably sinister Stone, the wrongly accused from a previous murder. He seemed a little young, but that was easy to put to one side, as his weird behaviour became more apparent. Todd Carty was the brash, forceful policeman Hallett, and Jacqueline Roberts played Dee, the journalist who reported the earlier crime, and is now a writer. All were fine in their roles, and took us through the twists and turns very capably. It’s a wordy play, although there are some spells of business, as Stone prepares his evidence to set the others up. Once or twice I felt there was too much explanation, but on the whole the pace was good, and there was definite tension as the situation developed. One of the better productions at the Connaught this year.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Small Change – May 2008

2/10

By Peter Gill

Directed by Peter Gill

Venue: Donmar Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th May 2008

The performances were all excellent, honest, it’s just that the play didn’t really work for me. Both Steve and I came up with the same word afterwards – pretentious.

Written in 1976, this appeared to be an attempt by Peter Gill to write in a Greek tragedy style, but based on ordinary lives, and while there was much to enjoy in some aspects, there was a lot of terribly dull stuff, too. For example, I very much liked the dialogue between the two mothers; it was well observed and reminded me of the Fifties, what little I could remember. The halting, jerky exchanges between the two sons also came across well – the way they didn’t answer each other’s questions and the sudden changes of direction. For humour, there was the chase sequence as young Gerard runs round the stage to keep away from a mother hell bent on giving him a hiding.

But apart from these things, there was nothing to keep me from nodding off, as I did occasionally in the second half. Once the two men had admitted their obvious feelings for one another, going right back to their childhoods, there was a long section where they simply yelled at each other, to no useful purpose. Very dull.

There was no set, just the four actors and four chairs, which were moved around a few times. The action was mainly in flashback, topped and tailed by Gerard’s poetic reminiscences of two photographs from his childhood. In between, there was a generally forward momentum, but I wasn’t always sure where we were, time-wise, and that definitely reduced my enjoyment. It was also a bit confusing having Vincent’s mother alive again after she’d died. I wasn’t sure if that was a flashback or an alternative storyline, and while I normally love ambiguity in a play, the impression here was that the writing wasn’t up to the job.

Not a play I’d see again, but superb performances from the whole cast.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Funny Girl – May 2008

7/10

Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 13th May 2008

I’m not a great one for musicals, but I was interested to see this one. Barbara Streisand made the part of Fanny Bryce so much her own that it’s understandable that there’s been no major production of it for many years, so as I haven’t seen the film, this was pretty new territory for me.

Of course, many of the songs were familiar, and the story, despite being based on Fanny Bryce’s life (or parts of it), was incredibly familiar. Piaf, Marie Lloyd, etc. all seemed to have similar themes to their life stories. But here we only get to see the unpromising beginnings, the rise to stardom and the glory days – no descent into post-stardom for this show.

To get across the show-biz nature of the piece, most of the sets showed the back wall of the theatre itself, which also doubled as the outside walls of the apartment blocks in the run down area Fanny comes from. There were some more opulent sets as well, for when she’s made it big, but I really don’t remember noticing the changes, they were done so slickly.

The story is one long reminiscence, as Fanny prepares to go on stage. Starting with her early attempts to get a job, we see her shoehorn her way into a tall, leggy chorus (she’s short and plump), take over the act completely by improvising comic business, and gradually make herself the star of whatever show she happens to be in. She’s helped in this by a tall, good-looking chap, Nick Arnstein, who seems to be well-off, and is certainly charming. He bids up her salary with the current management by claiming to represent another theatre, so she’s naturally grateful. Not that that matters, as she fell hook, line and sinker for the guy as soon as she clapped eyes on him. He, of course, is a chap with no real job, who just loafs around the theatre circuit taking advantage of whatever’s on offer. He soon realises that Fanny is an all-you-can-eat meal ticket, and it’s not long before they’re married. Naturally, there’s another chap who adores Fanny, but whom she regards as a good friend, and who would have been a much better match for her.

To do him justice, Nick does actually want to make his own way in the world; he’s just hopeless at doing it. He invests Fanny’s money in at least one get-rich-quick scheme (a golf course or hotel or casino, or some such), and loses it all. Later on he gets an amazing offer of a job that seems to be right up his street, but he realises it’s too good, and that Fanny has arranged it to give him some self-respect. That proves the clincher, and they split up. Fanny had even given up her career to be Nick’s wife, but now she has to go back on the stage to earn her living, and the play takes us up to her return.

It’s a moving story, with some very good songs, and this cast do it pretty well. The musical numbers with the dancers were all excellent, some of the duets were a bit weaker, but Samantha Spiro gave us a very good Fanny Bryce. Her voice isn’t as strong as Streisand’s, obviously, but she got the vulnerability across, and still got my toes tapping to the songs. I prefer musicals like this which do at least have some depth of character to them, so I enjoyed myself more than I expected.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me