Oppenheimer – January 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Tom Morton-Smith

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 20th January 2015

Wow. We didn’t have high expectations for this play, despite it being in the Swan and starring John Heffernan (one of our favourite actors) as Oppenheimer himself. We were prepared for it to be a bit dry, a bit too technical, perhaps even – dare I say it? – a bit boring, but the whole thing was an amazing piece of theatre, with music, jokes and lots of interesting information as well as lively debates. And yes, the horrific effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were brought out in a very effective and moving way. Given that this was a preview, I’d expect the performances to come on even more, and now that we know who is who in the story, our second viewing should bring out much more detail. Time will tell.

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King Lear – November 2013 (1)

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Tuesday 5th November 2013

We’ve seen Frank Langella on stage before in Frost/Nixon so we knew he could deliver a powerful performance, and we were keen to see how this would work in his interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s major roles. We weren’t disappointed, and as this was a preview we would expect the production to strengthen over its run, even though it’s not here for long.

The set was interesting, with an irregularly shaped raised area at the back leading down to the central stage area which was a mosaic of angled floorboards. I soon realised that this area depicted a rough map of Britain, with the different angled sections showing graphically how Lear intended to split up his kingdom. Along the back of the stage there were vertical wooden posts, staggered a bit to create both a screen and lots of possible entrances and exits; when characters did leave that way I could see there were steps down immediately behind the stage. A large wooden throne sat in the back right corner, above the map area, and looked remarkably like the English throne we’d seen in Edward II at the National. The costumes were historical, though I couldn’t say what specific period was intended; the general effect was mediaeval-ish.

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Canvas – June 2012


By Michael Wynne

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 5th June 2012

We’re not camping or outdoorsy people, Steve and I, so I suspect some of the jokes in the early stages of this play passed us by; others in the audience were finding it funnier than we were at the start. Once the characters were established, though, the humour became more general, and the laughs came more readily. The penultimate scene, the farewell party, was absolutely hilarious and well worth waiting for.

The play showed us three couples, some with kids, and the woman who was theoretically running the camping site they were all staying on. Justine and Alan had brought their kids to the camp site for a holiday at a crucial stage in their lives. Their landscape gardening business was in difficulties, as was their relationship. The camping put them under even more strain but also gave them the chance to work things out, and the final resolution of their situation was appropriate and not unexpected.

Bridget and Rory were another couple with children and completely different attitudes in just about every respect. Bridget was a teacher, and about as controlling as any mother could possibly be, scheduling every second of her children’s ‘holiday’ with worthwhile and improving activities which she mistakenly calls ‘play’. She threw her husband, Rory, out some time before, but allowed him to come on this holiday, which is his only chance to spend some time with his kids. He’s a bit of a doormat, but much more likeable than Bridget.

Alistair and Amanda were the posh couple, who brought so many extras to make their life more comfortable that they weren’t really camping at all. Both were into keeping young and beautiful, and Alistair was the sort who tries it on with every attractive woman in the vicinity. Amanda was used to this character flaw but not happy about it, and presumably only stayed with him to enjoy the lifestyle. The final party was held in their tent, and little extras like a microwave, TV and suchlike clearly made life easier for these two. I did like Bronwyn’s comment about forgetting the tents had a microwave – got a good laugh too.

Bronwyn was the lady running the camp, though she was hard to find whenever the couples wanted her. She was struggling to manage the ‘working farm’ holiday experience on her own, her husband having left her when he discovered there was work involved. The interactions between these people were entertaining and some of the observations were very accurate, especially when Justine recognised that Bridget was a teacher before she’d told them.

There were obvious similarities with Ayckbourn’s writing, but this was a little more realistic as well as funny. The performances were all excellent, and the set worked really well. There was grass at the front of the stage with a simple path up the central line to the tent at the back. It was a large tent with big canvas flaps at the front and a lot of space inside, as well as a stove, sink, table and chairs (some broken) and a bedroom further back which was curtained off from the living room. The tent space rolled forward for some scenes, with the canvas sides lifting up so we could get a good view of the interior. This made for a good staging, and kept the pace up nicely. We certainly enjoyed the performance, as did the rest of the audience.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Browning Version – October 2011


By: Terence Rattigan

Directed by: Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Friday 7th October 2011

This had really come on since we saw it last. All the performances were sharper, and my main difficulty with the earlier performance, back in September, had been totally rectified. I’d felt then that Anna Chancellor’s Millie wasn’t as unpleasant as she needed to be for the play to work; tonight she was as bitchy as could be, and everything fell into place. The only down side tonight was that our viewing angle cut out quite a bit of Crocker-Harris’s reactions, so I couldn’t enjoy Nicholas Farrell’s performance as much as I would have liked. Nevertheless, this was a very enjoyable way to spend an evening.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Browning Version – September 2011


By: Terence Rattigan

Directed by: Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 6th September 2011

I like this little play very much. It’s well constructed, and while it might not be completely idiot-proof, it can certainly rise above mediocre performances. Not that this was a problem tonight. There were a few rough edges, but given that this is very early in the run, I’m sure they’ll be up to speed very soon.

The set used the same two wooden arches as the first play, but added in the walls of Crocker-Harris’s study, and some French windows out to the garden centre back. A screen shielded the main entrance to the right, and there was a small table beside the French windows on the left. Another small table stood front left, with a large dining table centre right and a sofa centre left. There were several rugs on the floor, and the sense of a 50s style study/living room was very clear.

I liked Nicholas Farrell’s portrayal of Crocker-Harris a lot. He was very stiff and formal most of the time, but not unpleasant, and the way he crumpled when he was given the gift was very moving. I’m intrigued by the way such formality of speech can actually be used to convey the emotions underneath – it was beautifully done tonight.

Andrew Woodall was fine as the headmaster, and Mark Umbers was good as Frank Hunter, the cuckolder who turns into a friend. Liam Morton was very good as Taplow, and I certainly got the impression that the gift was a kind gesture on his part, which is what it’s meant to be. The only fly in the ointment for me was Anna Chancellor’s performance as Millie Crocker-Harris. I didn’t get the full sense of her nastiness here; it’s as if she’s afraid to make the part too unpleasant, which undercuts everyone else’s good work. Perhaps I just need time to adjust to her way of doing it, and as we’re seeing it again next month I may find it’s improved. We still enjoyed ourselves tonight anyway, so we’re looking forward to the next time.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Goodnight Mister Tom – February 2011


By: David Wood

Directed by: Angus Jackson

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Friday 4th February 2011

This was a sweet little story, with a surprising amount of darkness, and unusual in that it clearly worked for audience members of all ages. I hadn’t read the original book, nor seen the TV version (Steve had), so I came to this completely fresh. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and although this was early in the run (it starts at Chichester and then goes on tour), I felt that they’d got up to a good standard already, no mean feat given that there are three teams of children to cover the tour dates.

The play tells the story of young William, who is evacuated prior to the outbreak of WWII, along with many other London children. He’s billeted on an old curmudgeon called Tom Oakley (as William’s surname is Beech, I thought they were well matched). [Actually, it’s Beach, so not such a good match except sound-wise] Naturally, the child overcomes his difficulties which were due to the abuse he’s suffered from his mother, while the old man learns to open his heart again after many years mourning his lost wife and baby. In other hands, this could be sentimental schmaltz, but here it’s a moving tale, with many ups and downs, and a real feeling of the community that William ends up being part of. About the only thing missing was the grown-up William as narrator, and possibly all the better for that. There was a good balance between the two stories, with neither of the main characters dominating, and good support from everyone else, especially Sammy the dog.

Now, they say never work with children or animals. We’ve also seen that puppets can be a problem as well. So when we get animal puppets within a few minutes, we know we’re in for a good time, while the actors…… Well, the actors will just have to accept they’re being permanently upstaged. At the post show, Angus Jackson told us that he’d made a similar comment to Oliver Ford Davies during rehearsal, to the effect that he needn’t worry about how he said a particular line as there would be a dog on stage at that point, so no one would be listening to him.

Sammy was lovely. Laura Cubitt, who ‘played’ Sammy, was remarkable, even getting the dog to breathe while he was sitting or lying down, waiting for the next bit of action. In the post-show, she was asked if she’d done any ballet training, and she had, but even so, she found herself getting stiff sometimes with the awkward positions, so Sammy occasionally moved around a bit, sniffing things, to give her a break.

The set worked pretty well, although I felt it was one area which may improve with practice. There are a lot of changes, and occasionally the pace slowed a little too much for me in the first half, although the second half worked much better. The platform in the middle of the stage which served as just about everything from a train platform to a stage to Mr Tom’s house to a shop to everywhere else in the country, rose up reveal the dingy, grimy flat where William’s mother lives, and to which William returns, reluctantly, to find he has a baby sister. His mother is clearly a nutter – she’s obsessive about denying William any fun, and has rules forbidding any sort of normal life, although as she’s produced another baby she’s clearly a hypocrite where sex is concerned. She ties William up under the eaves and leaves him with the baby cradled in his arms, and when Mr Tom finds them (he’s come to London because he’s worried about not hearing anything from William for weeks), the baby is dead.

William ends up in hospital, and because his mother can’t be found, the authorities are about to send him to a special nursing home where he can be tortured by psychiatrists instead. Mr Tom helps him escape, and takes him back to Dorset, where eventually he adopts William as his own son. All looks good for the lad, until his best friend, ????, also returns to London when his father dies, and gets killed by a bomb. It’s a tough time for William, and for us, but overall, we manage to get through it with the help of Mr Tom and Sammy (especially Sammy).

This was a very good production, and I hope they have a great time on tour. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again if it comes back this way.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Bingo – April 2010


By Edward Bond

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 27th April 2010

This play is just tolerable, thanks to the second half opening scene in the tavern, with Ben Jonson and Will getting totally blotto, and giving us most of the play’s sparse jokes in one chunk. This was a very good production, mind you, and the performances were all splendid, but Edward Bond can be so dreary. I suppose he feels he has something to say about life, or in this case about money and death, but he overestimates his abilities in my view.

I saw this one on my own for once, as Steve, bless him, had come down with a bad cold and couldn’t stop coughing. The performance was the quieter, apart from a mobile going off during the closing stages! It’s strange not to have our usual discussion afterwards, but as we’ve booked again for this one he’ll have a chance to catch up later. I’ll be interested to see how the performance changes in that time.

The set was entertaining in itself. The first scenes are set in the garden of New House, Shakespeare’s retirement place in the country. There were large hedges at the back with a central opening, symmetrical beds, indicated by woodchip mulch, on either side, and also at the front. The stage had angled corners on two levels and was cut away to provide triangular steps at the front and side. There was a gate front right corner, and a bench back left.

For the rest of the first half, there was an unspecified location. The hedges were on a revolve, and on the other side were bricks, which were now at the back. In front of them was a wooden pillar, and the poor Young Woman was set up there, now dead. She did at least have a wooden headrest to help her stay still. The gate and bench were removed, and the woodchip scattered across the stage. I thought it might be a barn at first, but the gallows with grass at the base suggested an outdoor scene.

The second half starts in the tavern, and the front of the revolve now has walls either side and a fireplace in the middle, thrust forward. There were two tables and assorted stools, Ben and Will at the one to the right. For the next scene, outside in the snow, the revolve turned to give us an open space – don’t remember what was at the back – and a pile of fake snow which was swept vigorously forward to cover the stage (and the feet of the folk in the front row). Simple and effective.

The final scene is set in Will’s bedroom, so it took a minute or two to set up. The walls are back, but this time with a sturdy-looking door between them. There’s a bed to the left, an upright chair to the right, and a small, very small writing desk in front, covered in papers.

The story covers Shakespeare’s last months in Stratford, and brings in the enclosures and the hardships facing the poor at that time. Shakespeare is approached by William Coombe to agree to the common land being enclosed, and eventually agrees to that provided his rents are guaranteed. A young woman wanders into their lives, who shows us the restrictions on movement between parishes. There are protests against the enclosures, and in the meantime, Will is in a kind of depression as he toils towards death. He doesn’t get on with his family, loathes them in fact, so living in Stratford is torture for him, though he no longer wants to be in London. Frankly, just about everyone is miserable.

Bond is a political writer, so there’s a bit of drum-banging going on, but on the whole I’d have to agree with Patrick Stewart’s comment at the post-show that this was one area where Bond was scrupulously balanced. It is, after all, the area he’s most interested in, and he does understand the other points of view, at least well enough to present them fairly. I’d also agree that it’s the only area that’s balanced. I was very aware that many of the characters simply don’t communicate with each other, and while that’s certainly a valid situation to demonstrate and explore on stage, it doesn’t necessarily work if the lack of communication extends to the audience as well. Surely Judith could have been given more opportunity to express her feelings about her absentee father? Surely she could have made better points about his lack of care towards his family? There was enough to hint at the past injuries, on both sides, but I never felt the personal was anything more than a side issue for Bond.

Unfortunately, the political side also felt underwritten. One of the main protesters, Son, son of Old Woman and Old Man, Will’s servants (God, these names are dreadful!) was so caught up in religious rhetoric, and spoke with such a strong accent that I lost most of his lines. I got the anger, but the arguments against enclosure were decidedly lacking. In fact, the best argument against was the wonderfully sleazy performance by Jason Watkins as William Coombe, the main mover in the land grab campaign. I will just say that the accents were all fine, as far as I could tell, and if I’d remembered, I would have liked to ask about them during the post-show, but they did make it hard to follow the dialogue at times.

So it wasn’t the greatest evening, but the time did pass fairly quickly, and we had some laughs along the way.

© 2010 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

The Power Of Yes – October 2009


By David Hare

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Lyttelton Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th October 2009

We decided not to have high hopes for this play after seeing such a fantastic performance of Enron earlier in the year. Surely we couldn’t get two great plays on such closely related subjects in the same year? And we know from experience not to get our expectations up as that usually leads to disappointment.

Well, I’m delighted to report that we both thoroughly enjoyed this new work. David Hare seems to have developed the knack of being entertaining as well as informative and here he manages to get across a great deal of technical detail while giving us many opportunities to laugh at both the people who contributed to this sorry mess, and even the situation itself at times (note to self: never let bailiffs get inside the door, not even to go to the loo!).

The set was uncompromisingly sparse. The screen at the back showed what looked like a charcoal rubbing of wooden floorboards to start with, then all sorts of other images to illustrate the story. I felt particularly nostalgic when the building society names were up there – those were the days. There was another screen nearer the front which was raised and lowered as necessary, and which usually showed at least a portion of the fuller picture on the rear screen, as well as the ‘scene’ headings. There was a blackboard, some chairs and a table that made infrequent appearances but other than that, the stage was bare.

When Anthony Calf as the author walked on from the back of the stage, I was surprised to see how deep the acting space was; with so little furniture it was hard to judge distance. Mind you, they needed the room, as a cast of twenty spread itself out over the stage to give us a chorus-like introduction to the credit crunch. One character even called it a Greek tragedy.

After a short while, most of the cast trooped off and the author was left with a journalist from the Financial Times who was going to tell him the story of how the global financial systems collapsed. As she did, various characters came forward, introduced by a young man or woman, and told us, via the author, their part in the story or how they saw it unfold, and why they’re not to blame. Some of the characters preferred to be anonymous. There were occasional clips of the lower part of Alan Greenspan’s face saying something profound (now known to be untrue) and the characters covered a broad spectrum of interested parties from all walks of life, from the (ex) Chairman of the FSA through politicians, investment bankers, lawyers, economists and journalists to a chap who worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau, helping ordinary folk to deal with their debts. A large number appeared to have been at Harvard, Goldman Sachs and/or the Financial Times.

The character who probably came out best in all of this was George Soros. The author interviewed him, and this was shown at the end of the play so that his views on rampant capitalism were the final impression we were left with. In response to some comments by Alan Greenspan when the two of them had lunch some time before, about the benefits of capitalism being worth the price that had to be paid, Soros pointed out that the people who reap the benefits are not the same people who pay the price. A sobering thought, but unlikely to be a popular one with bankers.

I won’t go through the whole sordid story again here – frankly I couldn’t, as it was one of those things I followed well enough at the time, but couldn’t remember past the curtain call. I did get several ideas very clearly from it. One is that the people involved in banking are so brimful of self confidence (or could that be arrogance?) that they genuinely didn’t believe they had done anything wrong. On the way to the train, I recognised a similarity with Coriolanus. We as a society set bankers and other money men the task of making the country rich, without regulating how they should do that, and with the strange belief that if some people are coining it in then everyone benefits (trickle down theory). In the same way, Coriolanus is unleashed to give Rome military success, but when it comes to the social responsibility aspect neither he nor the bankers give a toss. So we all end up paying for our collective mistakes and ignorance.

Other points included the lack of regulation, the weird delusion that we’d broken through the cycle of boom and bust to a ‘new economics’, and that underpinning all this was a lack of knowledge of, and even interest in, history. Maniacal greed was also exposed, as one of the journalists explained that her friends who now worked in the city weren’t satisfied with only half a million a year. I think she’s also the one who pointed out that many of these financial folk consider they have earned the money instead of the company, and equate good luck with their own genius. And all of this unprecedented growth was founded on cheap labour in China.

There was a hint from George Soros near the end that the old capitalist certainties are changing (already there are moves to have the oil price quoted in a basket of currencies, including the Chinese Yuan) and with so many of the Western economies racking up huge debts he may well be right (he often is). So perhaps the lessons will be learned eventually, just not today.

The performances were all superb, as was to be expected from such a talented cast, and I only mention Anthony Calf in particular because he was not only on stage for almost the entire one and three quarter hours, he also provided the reactions that most of us would have had if we’d investigated the subject; bewilderment, anger, confusion, etc. I also liked his little demonstration of the need for speed in delivering a story, something the writer clearly understands. At one point, a journalist makes a comparison between the self confidence of the bankers and Hare’s own self belief. It’s a fair point in some ways, but then David Hare is unlikely to have been paid an obscene or disproportionate amount of money for writing his play, the enjoyment of his work is a subjective experience, and the measure of his success is bums on seats. The bankers, on the other hand, appear to be reaping rewards out of proportion to their effort or results, and the measure of their success can be clearly identified (if you can make sense of the bank’s accounts, that is). However, the comparison still has some validity, and I like the fact that this play has given me plenty to think about.

And how did it compare to Enron? Well, it didn’t have the singing and dancing nor the ladies’ knickers, but it did get the information across in an equally enjoyable way, so at least that’s two good things to come out of the credit crunch.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Wallenstein – June 2009


By Friedrich Schiller, adapted by Mike Poulton

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Wednesday 10th June 2009

It’s rare for me to miss the second half of something, as even quite dull productions can improve after the interval, but tonight’s performance was too much even for my boredom threshold. I wasn’t interested in the political manoeuvrings, the characters were largely insipid, there was no tension or drama for me and although I’d smiled at a few of the jokes, there were too few of them to keep me coming back. I admit it’s been a tiring week so far, but in similar circumstances I’ve managed to enjoy a number of productions more than this one, so I don’t think it’s entirely down to me.

The set was a sprawl of paving slanted across the stage with a slight rake. At the back was a peculiar wall – couldn’t really make it out – with double doors in the middle facing the slanted paving. A couple of bare tree trunks completed the picture. We could see through to the back at either side, and presumably through the doors when they were open (we weren’t in the right position to see).

The story concerns Wallenstein, the leader of the Holy Roman Empire’s forces for a large part of the Thirty Years War. He was promised the Kingdom of Bohemia by the Emperor when he took the job on, but the Emperor has not been “in the giving vein” for quite some time, so ambition is vying with loyalty and Wallenstein is contemplating a pact with the Swedes (currently enemies) so he can turn his forces on Vienna, clear out all his political opponents and gain his crown. His daughter and wife are involved (in a minor key), he has various generals who are loyal to him and some who are in the pay of the Emperor’s people, there are emissaries from Vienna and the Swedes (at least in the first half) and we get an early glimpse of a friar who preaches against Wallenstein to his own men (he’s bundled off stage pretty quickly).

It’s the familiar story of the successful leader brought down by the jealousy and fears of others, albeit a version with lots of nooks and crannies, and for once the leader himself has plenty of ambition and arrogance. There are a lot of arguments presented but few real feelings, which is probably why I found it difficult to get involved. Steve had seen a previous adaptation years ago at the RSC so perhaps he enjoyed this one more because he’s already seen a good production. Schiller had so much material when writing about Wallenstein that another version apparently runs to ten hours on stage, so at least this adaptation is a reasonable length but perhaps that’s its problem – too much to cram into the time. The actors were all doing a fine job, as usual, but it wasn’t for me.

I did like the emphasis on the fact that Wallenstein and his generals were paying their men out of their own coffers. It makes it seem even more unreasonable for the Emperor to sack Wallenstein and still expect to keep his armies to fight with, but that’s politicians for you. I wish they’d made more of the fact that this was a war where people kept changing sides, enemies becoming friends and vice versa. Despite the apparent principles involved – Catholicism versus Protestantism – there’s little to be seen of principles through the smoke of war, and bringing out that contrast more could have given the piece more humour and more focus, but it was not to be. Ah well.

I did attend the post-show, and there were some interesting questions and answers. Nothing that changes my opinion of this production, alas, but I’d be more interested in seeing a different version. The adaptor’s focus was on showing a man who had a fantasy of kingship but who didn’t really understand what it was about. I might have engaged with the piece better if that aspect had come out more in the first half. The cast apparently didn’t do much research into the history or the full Schiller version as it wouldn’t have helped; the real history and geography are merely ‘inspirational material’ for Schiller in a similar way to Shakespeare’s histories. The audience were generally appreciative, and I’m glad there were so many staying behind for the post-show as it made for a better discussion.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Funny Girl – May 2008


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