Tag Archives: Bill Kenwright

Heathers

Heathers

★★★

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Heathers

Heathers

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Reviewed – 12th July 2021

★★★

 

“a shouty affair that drowns out much of the tragedy, truth and trauma running through the heart of the piece”

 

I approach “Heathers the Musical” somewhat as an outsider. In a seemingly packed, though socially distanced auditorium, I am detached from the majority of the audience. Although I am hoping to be drawn in, and accepted. Based on the eighties’ movie, which originally flopped only to become a cult; the musical rapidly became a cult in its own right while skipping the pre-requisite critical rejection that qualifies its status. What marks this production out from the start is the enthusiasm with which it is presented and received. Everything about it is heightened and it often feels like you are in a cartoon.

Set very specifically in 1989, it adopts the high school setting so popular at the time, but twists the genre into something much darker. It reaches further than the typical subject matter of peer pressure and rebellion and attempts to grapple with teenage suicide and the fatal attraction of belonging to a clique. The clique in question is a trio of girls, all called Heather, who hold sway with a swagger that pushes credibility to the limit. For reasons governed by plot clichés, the protagonist – Veronica – is desperate to run with this pack. To say that she eventually outruns them is no spoiler; we can all see it coming as visibly as the love interest side-line.

What rescues the storyline are the quirks, the shocks and body-count that we don’t anticipate. And the oddball minor characters that outshine the leads in most cases. Andy Fickman’s production is a shouty affair that drowns out much of the tragedy, truth and trauma running through the heart of the piece. The more successful moments are when the volume gets turned down and the irony and sporadic subversiveness is allowed to be heard.

Christina Bennington is in fine voice as Veronica, torn between following her fantasy (in the shape of the three Heathers) or her conscience, represented by the Baudelaire reading, enigmatic Jason ‘JD’ Dean; gleefully played with a tongue-in-cheek assuredness by Jordan Luke Gage. His rapid metamorphosis from sympathetic to psychopathic is fun to watch. Less so are the eponymous Heathers; Jodie Steele, Bobbie Little and Frances Mayli McCann who screech far too much for their own good. At least Steele has the advantage of her ‘Heather’ being killed off fairly early on, allowing her to come back and haunt the perpetrators – a sardonic ghost that sheds more light and shade on proceedings than those still alive and clinging onto a script that is pulling them under.

It is buoyed up by the music that, despite its subject matter, powers the piece with energy and optimism. Bizarrely this sense of optimism and misplaced nostalgia is what characterises “Heathers” which, in effect, is a musical about high school killers. It makes light of the issues but doesn’t succeed in highlighting them by the humour. But what do I know? As I said at the start – I am the outsider; detached from the rest of the audience. There’s no denying this is a solid production, with a dream cast of West End talent. And there’s no denying its guaranteed success. It has bludgeoned its way into its cult status – but at the cost of sensitivity.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith 

 


Heathers

Theatre Royal Haymarket until 11th September

 

Previously reviewed by Jonathan this year:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2021
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021

 

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Love Letters

Love Letters

★★★★

Theatre Royal Windsor

Love Letters

Love Letters

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 13th October 2020

★★★★

 

“Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis”

 

Windsor’s Theatre Royal successfully re-opened last night with A.R. Gurney’s gentle hit ‘Love Letters’ starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove. The affection in which this lovely old theatre is held locally was evident in the warm reception given to Producer Bill Kenwright as he paid tribute to the team behind the show and welcomed the audience back. He also announced ‘Windsor on Air’ – a new season of radio style one week runs which includes hits like ‘The Lady in the Van’ and Tom Conti and Felicity Kendal in ‘Lloyd George Knew my Father’. A comprehensive set of measures ensure audience safety, including serving drinks to your seat.

‘Love Letters’ began in 1988 as an epistolatory novel, but it soon became a big Broadway hit. It’s a play which ‘needs no theatre, no special set, no memorization of lines’. The two characters sit at desks at 60 degrees to each other and read letters and cards which chart a half century of hectic and privileged East Coast American living. A glittering roster of past performers has included the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Ali MacGraw – and even Larry Hagman.

At its soft heart the play is about maintaining togetherness through separation, as childhood sweethearts stay close by correspondence, as their lives dramatically diverge. Only in the last, poignant moments does one character finally look at the other.

Martin Shaw (‘Judge John Deed’ and many others) and Jenny Seagrove (‘Peak Practice’, ‘Judge John Deed’, the film ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ and much more) are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis. The writing is excellent, particularly in the second half, when the pair of elementary students grow into adults. She is a ‘lascivious old dame’ and he a ‘shifty [but very successful] bastard’. His dogged defence of the power of letter-writing gets gently patted back by her one-liners and aching silences.

Roy Marsden directs this bittersweet and delightful Pulitzer-listed comedy with a light touch.

 

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography Simon Vail

 


Love Letters

Theatre Royal Windsor until 17th October

 

Previously reviewed by David:
Assassins | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | September 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2019
The Nutcracker | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
What’s In A Name? | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
Ten Times Table | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | January 2020
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Last Temptation Of Boris Johnson | ★★★½ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Black Veil | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | March 2020
The Wicker Husband | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | March 2020
The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde | ★★★★★ | Wilde Theatre | September 2020

 

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