Tag Archives: Daniel Evans

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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Quiz – 4 Stars

Quiz

Quiz

Noël Coward Theatre

Reviewed – 11th April 2018

★★★★

“a compelling presentation, full of sleight of hand that is often as manipulative as the subject matter itself”

 

Performance and presentation has become such a prominent part of public life now, that reality has become subjective. ‘Constructed reality’, as a phrase, is relatively new and didn’t exist at the time of the scandal of the “coughing major”, the events of which form the backbone to James Graham’s newest West End play, “Quiz”. But even though the phrase had yet to be coined, the trial of Charles and Diana Ingram accused of cheating on ITV’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ was still described by those who were there as ‘pure theatre’.

Graham’s stunning play truly reflects this. It is a whirlwind account of the drama that unfolded in both the courtrooms and the television studios, brilliantly highlighting the fact that the two are becoming more and more indistinguishable. The production, directed by Daniel Evans, is inspired and ingeniously constructed, using knockabout comedy to pinpoint the harsh truths of the false world we find ourselves living in. Robert Jones’ set combines the courtroom and the game show as cleverly as Graham’s writing, and even the audience are given a handheld device to pass judgement on the accused. It’s 50:50 – guilty or not guilty. As simple as that.

Although it isn’t quite so simple. We get to decide twice: at the interval and at the very end, and each time the verdict is different. The first act concentrates on the prosecution while the second act presents the same set of events from a different camera angle, inviting – or perhaps cajoling – us into rooting for the Ingrams. It is a disquietingly manipulative device, but we accept it.

The multi-tasking cast feast on their roles, relishing the vibrant array of characters they are depicting; from QC to Quizmaster (Keir Charles, for one, hilariously and perfectly capturing the tones and mannerisms of Chris Tarrant); contestant to conspirator, police officer to army general, among many others. We are also given a potted history of light entertainment, and how ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, in particular, morphed into a global phenomenon. Far from being expositional it is all quite eye-opening.

But the focal point is the question mark that hangs over Charles Ingram winning the million-pound jackpot. We all know the historical reality of the guilty verdict but Gavin Spokes, as Charles Ingram, has to make us believe in him. And the beauty of his performance allows us to do just that. Assisted by Sarah Woodward’s impassioned defence lawyer, we are driven to reject the reality and overturn the judgement. We are asked to choose a “more entertaining lie over a less extraordinary truth”.

But all the time we are reminded that this is theatre. As thought provoking as it is, it is utterly entertaining, insightful and immersive. It is a compelling presentation, full of sleight of hand that is often as manipulative as the subject matter itself, constantly toying with our perceptions of truth. But amid the mire of differing perspectives, one verdict is absolutely clear – “Quiz” is a sure-fire hit.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson

 


Quiz

Noël Coward Theatre until 16th June

 

Related
Interview with Keir Charles

 

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