Tag Archives: James Williams

Falsettos

★★½

The Other Palace

Falsettos

Falsettos

The Other Palace

Reviewed – 5th September 2019

★★½

 

“The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice”

 

Falsettos opens with Four Jews in a Room Bitching. Or that’s the name of the opening number, anyway. It’d be difficult to tell otherwise, since it’s not especially clear where they are, or why they’re there. And they don’t even appear to be doing much bitching. Although this musical’s no stranger to it, as anyone who’s been on Twitter in the past few weeks will know that it’s been mired in controversy for its lack of Jewish representation in a story that allegedly pivots around Judaism. That certainly didn’t seem to be the focal point of this production, however, but then it’s also difficult to say what was.

Originally conceived as a trilogy of one-act musicals by William Finn and James Lapine, Falsettos is a conglomeration of In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland. It centres on Marvin (Daniel Boys), a man trying to maintain his relationship with his ex-wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford) and son Jason (Albert Atack in this performance) after having come out as gay and left them for his boyfriend Whizzer (Oliver Savile). Things take a further complication when Marvin’s shrink Mendel (Joel Montague) becomes romantically involved with Trina, as the show reflects on the wealth of different loves one can experience, and the non-conventional forms it can blossom in.

While its depiction of homosexuality and non-traditional families may have been controversial in the ’80s when March of the Falsettos debuted, the messy story leaves it feeling lacking in substance in today’s (slightly) more accepting climate. It’s hugely noticeable that Falsettos is three musicals stitched together, as characters leap from moment to moment in their arcs without any time being allowed to let these changes develop organically, or for them to settle effectively. The love between Mendel and Trina, for example, feels unearned when most of the buildup is Mendel lecherously fantasising about her during his meetings with Marvin. Finn’s music, too, robs a number of scenes of their emotional heft as nigh-on every song takes on a quirky, light-hearted tone – the impact of darker elements such as domestic violence and terminal illness is completely undermined when underscored by major chords.

However, in a number of moments, the levity of the music, as well as its enjoyably unpredictable use of tempo and key changes, is utilised excellently in numbers such as The Baseball Game, and Pitt-Pulford delivers the stand-out performance in I’m Breaking Down. Boys has superb comic timing, and the mesh of the company’s voices is truly beautiful, although two of them – lesbian couple Cordelia (Natasha J Barnes) and Charlotte (Gemma Knight-Jones) – don’t appear at all until the second act – another sign of the unpolished unification of separate pieces.

The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice. The chessboard set from PJ McEvoy is superfluous, trying to force a metaphor that simply isn’t in the text, and Tara Overfield-Wilkinson’s direction favours chasing laughs over emotional honesty. Whether these issues stem from the absence of Jewish voices in the rehearsal room, or are just an overall problem with the production will no doubt be the subject of further Twitter debates – either way, Falsettos is missing the specificity that lets it truly land.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by The Standout Company

 


Falsettos

The Other Palace until 23rd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Eugenius! | ★★★★ | February 2018
Suicide | ★★★½ | May 2018
Bromance: The Dudesical | ★★★★ | October 2018
Murder for Two | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Messiah | ★★★★ | December 2018
Toast | ★★★ | April 2019

 

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Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine – 5 Stars

Relentless

Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine

Camden Roundhouse

Reviewed – 5th April 2018

★★★★★

“effortless and joyful, with moments of childlike wonder and some truly memorable set pieces”

 

Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine is the latest show from Pirates of the Carabina, a company that specialises in ‘theatrical, highly technical circus with a very strong live music ethos.’ It is also the opening show in the Roundhouse’s CircusFest.

The performance is wonderfully gripping, with moments of comedy and vignettes of relationships interspersed among the flying, spinning thrills of the circus. This is circus for today. There are no glittering leotards, red-nosed clowns or blustering ring masters. Instead we have an ensemble of incredible performers and multi-talented musicians. We see how the performers rise and drop on the ropes and silks, counter-balanced by the strong woman and man who climb up and down the structures with incredible speed. It’s like seeing the ballet behind the skill, the people on the spinning ropes twinned with their partners, safe in their strong hands.

Here we have trapeze, hoops, tightrope and some fantastic clowning. James Williams’ direction has skillfully moulded all the elements into what feels like a surreal series of small stories, so that we really want the, apparently incompetent, tightrope walker to succeed, the ’drunk’ girl to manage to climb the stairs. The performers have well developed characters, and they also join the musicians, singing and playing instruments. The lighting, designed by James Loudon, is evocative and beautiful, especially in the build up to the finale, and Barnz Munn’s set design is a marvel of flexible elements, moved and repurposed by the performers throughout the show. Music also plays an important part, with original music, composed by Meg Ella, James Williams and the Company, being more than just a backdrop to the action.

The whole thing seems effortless and joyful, with moments of childlike wonder and some truly memorable set pieces. The first hoop performance made me think of the iconic 1923 ‘Girl in the Moon’ photograph, and the antics on the ‘very temperamental staircase’ had the audience howling with laughter.

I do wonder why the show is called ‘Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine.’ The title had me expecting a driving mechanical feel, not the lovely, playful, gentle joy of the evening. This is a very human circus that will sweep you along with all the thrills that you expect, and wrap you in a magical world for the evening.

The performers are Meg Ella, Jack Rees, Shaena Brandel, Ellis Grover, Seren Corrigan, Eric Mcgill, Barnz Munn, Jade Dunbar, Alfie Horn and Alik Peters-Deacon.They all deserve mention here, a truly talented ensemble.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Ollie Millington

 


Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine

Camden Roundhouse until 15th April

 

 

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