Underbelly Festival Southbank
Reviewed – 13th May 2019
“personal, enchanting and all rather marvellous”
It’s not often that you get to see some of the leading lights of theatre and musical theatre in an intimate cabaret setting. On Reflection is a rare opportunity to do so, and it is a great experience. Janie Dee, who played Phylis in the National Theatre’s triumphant production of Follies, has brought together some of the stars of the show to share personal experiences and songs in the intimate setting of Underbelly’s Spiegeltent.
Having seen Follies a few days previously, just before it closed, it was fascinating to see the closeness and friendship between the cast. Dee’s idea to stage this cabaret style show was inspired by the theme of reflection and the connection between past and future that runs through Follies. She asked some of her fellow actors if they would be willing to share a personal story and a song, reflecting on something from their own past. Taking part in this show is a way for them to fill the void left by the end of Follies, keeping some of the company together for a while.
Each actor had brought a photo; themselves as a baby, a loved one who had passed away, something that meant something deep or funny. They told their stories, and sang their songs, weaving an evening full of feeling; sadness, nostalgia, love and hilarity. Aimee Hodnett regaled the audience with her total failure when auditioning for Cats, and attempting to stand out from the crowd in not the wisest manner! She then had everyone in stitches with her rendition of ‘The Girl in 14G.’ Adrian Grove moved people to tears with his story of his father’s dementia, and how sometimes he would know him, and sometimes not. He sang a beautiful duet with Ian McLarnon.
Alyn Hawke took us back to the golden age of musical movies with a medley of his childhood idols, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and Vanessa Fisher belted out an inspiring version of Des’ree’s ‘You Gotta Be’. There were so many outstanding stories and songs. Janie Dee talked about how she was warned off taking a musical theatre job by her agent, because ‘nobody would take her seriously as an actress’. They were wrong. She was spotted in the show by Sir Peter Hall and asked to work with him at the National Theatre. She danced, charmed us all and ended the evening by introducing Stefan Bednacyk, the pianist, and inviting all the performers on stage. Josh Seymour directed the show, allowing everything to seem spontaneous, and to be truly heartfelt. The evening was personal, enchanting and all rather marvellous.
Reviewed by Katre
Underbelly Festival Southbank until 16th May
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Homos, or Everyone in America
Reviewed – 14th August 2018
“McEntire and Huntley as the two leads give incredible performances”
Jordan Seavey’s ‘Homos, or Everyone in America’, receiving its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre, is a whirlwind of a play, full of love, intelligence, mystery and warmth.
Told in scenes that leap around between 2006 and 2011, ‘Homos…’ is the story of ‘The Writer’ (Harry McEntire) and ‘The Academic’ (Tyrone Huntley), two twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn, NY. They meet over Friendster, the social networking site that appears to have been the next big thing before Myspace and Facebook arrived on the block, and from a drunken first date onwards, the play charts their highs and lows, their arguments, make-ups, break-ups and everything in between, until one life-changing event unsettles and rearranges everything they had before. “Handsome, and sort of strapping” Dan (Dan Krikler), a friend of The Academic, becomes a key player in the couple’s downfall, whilst Laila (Cash Holland), an enthusiastic and kind Lush worker, does what she can to help a stranger in a time of need.
A play about well-educated New York gay men talking about being gay can hardly be called ground-breaking, but Seavey’s script, stylistically built up on half-sentences, interruptions and people talking over each other, is moving, truthful, and feels real. The structure means each scene is sort of a guessing game as to when and where we are in the relationship, and the neat movement sequences (simply effective work from Chi-San Howard) work with the script to foreshadow a darker event on the couples’ horizon.
McEntire and Huntley as the two leads give incredible performances, sitting into the characters convincingly, and seeming free and at ease with each other and the space. Both actors display an impressive ability to snap out of emotional fraught scenes and move into lighter ones (and vice versa) at the drop of hat, and in a play so filled with arguments, they make the most of the kinder, funnier moments to give the audience a sense of why they are together.
Josh Seymour’s direction keeps the action varied, even when the script begins to feel a little repetitive (argue – make-up – repeat), and by giving us physical milestones at the beginning to keep an eye out for, gives a strange sense of emotional déjà vu, as if it’s somehow our relationship up on stage. A word of warning though: those with sensitive noses beware, this production contains Lush products, and lots of them.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand…” Williams Blake once wrote, and on the Finborough’s luscious, sand-covered stage, this relationship works hard to be the one grain representing many. It seemed odd at first to be taken back to Bush and Obama, but that time frame, and the shock and drama of the finale, suggest now more than ever is a time for vigilance and action. Has the world become (to use a word hated by The Writer) less tolerant, less safe? We hope not, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate love, kindness and what individuals can do for each other.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Marc Brenner
Homos, or Everyone in America
Finborough Theatre until 1st September
Previously reviewed at this venue