Category Archives: Reviews

The Light in the Piazza
★★★

Royal Festival Hall

The Light in the Piazza

The Light in the Piazza

Royal Festival Hall

Reviewed – 18th June 2019

★★★

 

“Guettel’s score is drenched in a lush, autumnal style, with orchestrations that are truly gorgeous”

 

The Light in the Piazza lands in its London premiere with a level of prestige – it scooped up no less than six Tony Awards during its Broadway run in 2005. While the musical consequently carries with it an inherent air of quality, it also finds itself emblematic of the genre as a whole, as it glosses over and romanticises subject matter which deserves a little more nuance.

Based on the 1960 novel by Elizabeth Spencer (which was also released as a film two years later), The Light in the Piazza follows the journey of Margaret Johnson (Renée Fleming), whose developmentally disabled daughter Clara (Dove Cameron) falls in love while the pair are on holiday in Florence with Fabrizio Naccarelli (Rob Houchen). Margaret grapples with letting go of her child and allowing her to live independently with Fabrizio, although in doing so she never fully discloses the nature of Clara’s disability to the Naccarelli family; it’s a decision that comes with huge ethical implications and ramifications, albeit ones that the show seems quite happy to ignore.

Adam Guettel’s score is drenched in a lush, autumnal style, with orchestrations that are truly gorgeous, and Kimberly Grigsby’s conducting makes the music feel like it fully lives and breathes with the characters and the story. Despite that the style starts to feel somewhat overfamiliar in the latter half the show, there are still a variety of hugely enjoyable numbers, such as Say It Somehow and Let’s Walk. Guettel’s lyrics and Craig Lucas’ libretto are full of quirks, wit, and humanity, but neither feel like they genuinely facilitate any true depth to the themes or characters. Despite this, there are some excellent performances on display in Piazza, particularly Fleming as Margaret, who keeps guilt and uncertainty bubbling underneath a frothy exterior, and Alex Jennings as Signor Naccarelli, whose charm and self-assuredness beautifully counterbalances the more melodramatic facets of the other characters. Every single member of the cast delivers immaculate vocals, and Robert Jones’ scenic design and Mark Henderson’s lighting harmoniously provide some stunning aesthetics. Piazza is undoubtedly a visual and aural treat.

However, the substance simply isn’t there to support it. Understanding and misunderstanding are prominent themes in Piazza – the Johnsons don’t speak great Italian and the Naccarellis don’t speak great English so their meanings aren’t always perfectly conveyed to each other, and some scenes and songs are entirely in Italian, so that the audience have to rely on the visual storytelling alone (which, thanks to Daniel Evans’ direction, is stellar). It suggests that the love between Clara and Fabrizio transcends barriers such as language or disability, but the fact that Fabrizio falls so swiftly for a woman with the mental and emotional capacities of a twelve-year-old draws allusions to the seedy over-sexualisation of young girls in society, and the fact that Fabrizio isn’t made aware of long-term effects that the disability will have on the relationship makes the romance feel unearned and untrue. And unfortunately, Piazza hinges itself on the romance.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Dewynters

 

SOUTHBANK CENTRE logo

The Light in the Piazza

Royal Festival Hall until 5th July

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Bay At Nice | ★★½ | Menier Chocolate Factory | March 2019
Waitress | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | April 2019
Mortgage | ★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | King’s Head Theatre | May 2019
Delicacy | ★★★½ | The Space | May 2019
Orpheus Descending  | ★★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | May 2019
Regen | ★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2019

 

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The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
★★

Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Theatre Royal Brighton

Reviewed – 17th June 2019

★★

 

“the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed”

 

The stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel of Paula Hawkin’s smash-hit novel, The Girl on The Train, screeches into Brighton prior to transferring to the West End. It puts Rachel Watson, played by Samantha Womack, as an unemployed alcoholic who spies into her ex husband Tom’s home from the train and soon finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation. The victim? Her ex-husband’s mistress, Megan.

Rachel, who yearns for a different life is bitterly grieving for the one she has now lost. The plot is seemingly plucked from thin air as out of the blue, ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson Smith) comes knocking at the door of her cluttered and untidy flat. He is investigating whether she had any involvement in the murder which happened on the evening she turned up at his house, berating his new wife Anna (Lowenna Melrose).

With crime thriller interest at an all time high with smash-hit TV shows like Broadchurch and Line of Duty, the production ultimately lacks genuine research and integrity which is a shame. The inspector tasked with the case incoherently deals with Rachel as a potential suspect and it doesn’t sit well. DI Gaskell, played rather too melodramatically by John Dougall, gives away confidential information and access to murder scenes which confuses. The relationship between suspect and police could be more intelligent, the psychological analysis of interrogation could have been a strong point but again, the poor writing fails miserably in it’s feeble attempt at being somewhat mildly realistic and poetic.

Director Anthony Banks could do more to raise the stakes within each scene, we are watching a murder investigation and so called ‘psychological thriller’ but yet I do not believe the majority of the performances or staging. The clunky transitions between scenes see Womack walk into a focused light for ten seconds or so with no real purpose except for masking a scene change and ultimately drops the rare bit of energy that is created in the scene before. Womack has a big task in carrying The Girl On The Train as Rachel is centre of every scene but unlike in the novel and film, Rachel lacks real character depth and likeability. I feel for Womack as I know she has the ability to carry a good script, but she is desperately underserved by the writers but supported by the rest of the cast (Oliver Farnworth, Naeem Hayat, Matt Concannon and Phillipa Flynn). One redeeming performance is Kirsty Oswald as Megan, her brief monologues are complex and performed with a real level of emotion and truth.

The Girl On The Train is a clumsy and poorly directed adaptation of a story which is somewhat of a literature phenomenon. Despite it’s stunning design by James Cotterill and admirable ambition, the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed.

 

Reviewed by Nathan Collins

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Girl on the Train

Theatre Royal Brighton until 22nd June then UK tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
This is Elvis | ★★★ | July 2018
Salad Days | ★★★ | September 2018
Rocky Horror Show | ★★★★ | December 2018
Benidorm Live! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Noughts And Crosses | ★★ | March 2019
Rotterdam | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

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