Theatre Royal Brighton
Reviewed – 8th July 2019
“each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill”
Sex, drugs, sex, psychedelic tabs, more sex and a rather peculiar UV Scene. Hair bounces into Brighton as part of its 50th anniversary tour.
Picture this, itʼs 1967 and a group of hippie youngsters are longing to change the world in which they find themselves. They question every aspect of authority and unite through protest and song, under the gloomy shadow of the Vietnam War.
The story of Hair jumps so sporadically from one character and story to another which confuses, leaving us little to no time to really form an emotional connection with each character and the threadbare storyline.
The cast is laden with TV celebrities. X-Factor Duo Jake Quickenden (modelling a rather revealing thong throughout) and Marcus Collins (as Hud) are both interesting talents. Both do well throughout but are underserved by the script and direction from Jonathan O’Boyle. Quickendenʼs energetic conversations with the audience are infectious and makes his Berger completely loveable; someone youʼd take home to your mum.
Vocally, Aiesha Pease, playing Dionne, and Daisy Wood-Davis, as Shelia, are simply stunning, both commanding the stage with pitch-perfect clarity. However beautiful harmonies and exceptional examples of physical theatre canʼt forgive the poor diction from most of the cast throughout the sub-par plot.
I have one big gripe about this production as a whole and thatʼs how it fairs in the current political climate. Although Hair tries all the tricks to appeal to our packed to the rafters Brighton audience but the lack of ‘shockingʼ content merely makes it a well-produced museum piece. With the director’s choice of implementing Trump speeches at the beginning, the show manages to say nothing new whilst remaining some-what relevant but this is cheap and easy. If you had put Erdogan or Putin speeches in place of Trump, or performed the show in Russia or Brunei for example, where homosexuality and nudity on stage is still illegal, then the impact would be colossal.
Putting the incoherent story aside, Hair, put simply, is a spectacle and an event. Once intended to shock and change laws, Hair unintentionally falls flat in its flamboyant charm. Although each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill, energy and wit the seemingly endless number of songs forces us to yearn for more of the thin narrative.
Reviewed by Nathan Collins
Photography by Johan Persson
Theatre Royal Brighton until 13th July then UK tour continues
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Reviewed – 11th October 2017
“the fabulously talented cast exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish”
News of the rock musical Hair coming to London to celebrate its 50th Anniversary was generally received with excited expectation when it was announced earlier this year. Amongst some of the questions posed at the time however were ‘would this show have relevance to 2017?’ and ‘would The Vaults in Waterloo be a great venue?’.
It seems that the talented group of people from the cast to the creative team have exceeded expectations and delivered a show that looks, sounds and feels terrific with a place and relevance in 2017.
The Vaults has been transformed into a 1960s hippy commune. The walls are covered in tie-dye material and posters from the period. There are prayer ribbons everywhere, a nod to the North / South Korean border which features in the set. The evocative music provides a landscape of sound that really transports the audience into the era. There is a strong scent of incense.
As the audience files in to take their seats, they pass the actors already sitting in a circle of contemplation and we see a remarkably decorated room. For those that know nothing of this musical, the original production, penned by James Rado, opened off-Broadway in 1967. The show came when American society was in a state of flux with the country divided by its protracted involvement in the Vietnam War. It has a background of peace and love whilst addressing key issues such as anti-war activity.
The music has survived the test of time with easily recognisable songs such as Aquarius, Let The Sun Shine In, Ain’t Got No, I Got Life and Good Morning Sunshine forming part of the 41 songs in this production. The show also features Hippie Life for the first time on stage, which was originally written for the film version of the show. The band perfectly drives the music along assisted by a crisp and clear sound mix, though there were a couple of occasions when some of the lyrics were hard to hear.
This production has a fabulously talented cast who exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish. Shekinah McFarlane sets the standards high with the opening song Aquarius and Laura Johnson is a joy to watch and listen to throughout the show. They are joined by a further 12 cast members.
There is a small part in the show when we see Claude’s (Robert Metson) hallucinations following an intake of particularly strong drugs and some of it is quite bizarre. However some aspects of this ‘trip’ are quite sobering and very well acted.
When the show came to the West End in 1968 the opening night was delayed until the abolition of theatre censorship in England under the Theatres Act so that the show could include nudity and profanity. The short nudity scene remains and some of the language used is rather ‘fruity’ though it never seems to offend.
Overall this is a very engaging production from the stables of Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment with sharp direction from Jonathan O’Boyle and outstanding set and costume design from Maeve Black. The audience gave a well deserved standing ovation and responded enthusiastically throughout.
Finally there is a challenge for anyone not to thoroughly enjoy the close of the show – it leaves the audience on a natural high – ironic given the reference to drug intake throughout the entertaining evening. Join the Tribe and let the sun shine in!
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
Photography by Claire Bilyard
is at The Vaults until 13th January 2018