Tag Archives: April De Angelis

Infamous

Infamous

★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

INFAMOUS at Jermyn Street Theatre

★★★★

Infamous

“There are wonderful moments of humour and wit”

Lady Emma Hamilton was a truly fascinating figure. Reading her Wikipedia page is akin to a modern gossip column – salacious affairs, a secret love child and an obsession with keeping up appearances for the media. Emma is perhaps most well-known for her ‘attitudes’ – alluring tableaux vivants in which she portrayed sculptures and paintings – made her an international superstar and started a fashion for a draped Grecian style of dress.

Directed by Michael Oakley and written by April De Angelis, Infamous delivers a neat summary of it all whilst asking its audience to consider whether a woman can really be famous and respectable.

Using a hand time skip, Infamous presents Emma at two different points in her life: 1798 and 1815. In the former, Emma is played by Rose Quentin and her mother-cum-housekeeper, Mrs Cadogan, played by her real-life mother Caroline Quentin. Here, Emma is vivacious, at the peak of her fame. Married to Sir William Hamilton, she lives in the beautiful Palazzo Sessa overlooking Mount Vesuvius. However, Emma has her sights set on becoming the mistress or indeed wife of the great Lord Horatio Nelson and climb further up the social and political ladder.

Yet, by 1815, Emma (now played by Caroline) is near-destitute living with her daughter by Nelson – Horatia (Rose) – in a barn in Calais. Abandoned by Nelson’s family after his death, the duo has nothing to her name. Emma, consumed by drink, encourages Horatia to pursue the local mayor’s son in hopes that her daughter will repeat her own success in rising to high society. Horatia serves a similar purpose to Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous – the sensible foil to her eccentric mother.

There is great chemistry between the two Quentens. Caroline is expectedly wonderful – demonstrating her incredible range by playing two entirely different characters with such ease. Rose is good too – best as Horatia. Rose’s young Emma is a bit overblown at points – her accent a bit too overblown. The younger Quenten also appears to be a fan of a knowing glance to the audience which at points unfortunately undercuts her performance and our immersion in the play. Riad Richie provides great support despite most of his lines being in French or Italian for his respective roles – Vincenzo and Jacques Fournier – in the two halves.

There are wonderful moments of humour and wit. Caroline excels as mad old Emma and her rendition of the attitudes for a confused Jacques garners the most laughs. The second half has a quicker pace and more interest of the two – we are at first amused by our selfish lead’s fall from grace but then feel tremendous pathos at her death, in no small part to Caroline’s amazing performance.

The set is excellently designed by Fotini Dimou. The painted wall panels of the Italian villa transform seamlessly into the haphazard wooden slats of the French barn in which Emma and Horatia are forced to reside. Christopher Naire provides gentle but effective lighting – the soft but vibrant light of dusk and dawn rendered beautifully.

Lady Emma Hamilton was a woman of pure ambition. Lampooned in the media and gathering equal number enemies and supports wherever she went, it is hard not to admire her dedication to fame, fortune and influence. Infamous shows a bit of everything, never feeling too rushed or too slow, and has a great acting duo at its heart. Well worth a watch.


INFAMOUS at Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed on 12th September 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by Steve Gregson


 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

Spiral | ★★ | August 2023
Farm Hall | ★★★★ | March 2023
Love All | ★★★★ | September 2022
Cancelling Socrates | ★★★★ | June 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | May 2022
Footfalls and Rockaby | ★★★★★ | November 2021
The Tempest | ★★★ | November 2021
This Beautiful Future | ★★★ | August 2021

Infamous

Infamous

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Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

★★★★

Royal & Derngate

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 21st July 2021

★★

 

“The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping”

 

This new musical – book and lyrics by April de Angelis, music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers – brings to life William Hogarth’s shocking 1751 etching ‘Gin Lane’ portraying grotesque caricatures of people suffering from the Gin Craze that was rife in the early part of the eighteenth century. As the curtain rises, we meet a number of these ladies under the influence who sing, dance, and extol the virtues of their favourite tipple. A pawn broker’s sign hangs close to the stage, the same sign as in Hogarth’s print.

The set (designed by Hayley Grindle) is built on two levels and reinforces a view of the class divide with the wealthy Fielding family and a semi-sozzled Queen Caroline appearing on the upper level whilst the gin ladies are firmly rooted on the ground and at the bottom of society. Through the shadows of wooden beams and hanging ropes, we can see various musical instruments: harpsichord, violin, cello, double bass, guitar, timpani. Each member of the eight strong ensemble takes their turn at becoming the band. Plus the ever-present MD Tamara Saringer at the keys.

For much of the time we could describe this as a folk musical. The singing is gentle and refined, the lyrics ballad-like in form, and the duets between the two main leads contain excellent close folk harmonies. The arrangement of the songs is most striking particularly those making use of violin and cello underlay.

The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping. “Gin Dive” is the standout song that reappears close to the end in a poignant unaccompanied close harmony version. “It’s the Law” becomes a good old cockney knees-up with comedy trombone. Many of the scenes can be described as bawdy – and are especially enjoyed because of that – at times they are out-and-out plain rude.

The plot – or the message of the show, perhaps – is summed up with the song title, “What does a woman have to do to get a better life?”. We follow the journey of Mary (Aruhan Galieva) who whilst working as a servant is knocked up by the visiting priest, kicked out into the street, tricked into giving away her baby, and narrowly avoids rape and prostitution by setting up as a gin hawker. We learn that life for a woman is not a bed of roses. But then, Mary befriends Lydia (Paksie Vernon), her saving grace.

Director Michael Oakley produces the most spirited scenes when the gin women appear on stage together. If their individual characters do appear on the caricature side of sincere then we can allow that they may have been first based upon a cartoon. But, in the midst of tragedy, despite the best efforts of this hard-working cast, there is little tension to be felt and we remain unmoved. Particularly, much of the momentum is lost after the interval as attention turns away from the rumbustious Gin Lane into the genteel home of the foppish Henry Fielding (Alex Mugnaioni) and his do-gooder sister Sarah (Rachel Winters).

April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers have created a most fascinating feminist – and musical – response to an interesting period of English history which reflects well on Hogarth’s masterpiece that initially inspired the idea.

 

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

 

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre  until 31st July

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021

 

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