Tag Archives: Laura Hopkins

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde

★★★

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed – 24th May 2022

★★★

 

“It is a joy ride, although it does sometimes feel like you’re riding on a bus full of teenagers”

 

So where exactly did the stereotype originate? The Blonde Stereotype that is. Negative (‘dumb blonde’) or otherwise (‘blonde bombshell’), the perception of blonde-haired women has ignored the lack of evidence that suggests that blondes are less intelligent than other people. The first recorded ‘dumb blonde’ appeared in a French play in 1775; “Les Curiosités de la Foire’. She was dumb in the literal sense in that she didn’t talk much. Since then, blondes have had more fun, gentlemen have preferred them, and Hitchcock has fetishized them.

In 2001, writer Amanda Brown wrote about her experience as a blonde at Stanford Law School in various letters to friends which later became a novel and the box office success that was “Legally Blonde”. The musical, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, opened on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews. It’s West End run, starring Sheridan Smith, won three Olivier Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Smith.

The temptation is strong to focus on the possible relevance the story might have in today’s society. It is a cliché to state that times have certainly changed since the narrative themes burst forth into our consciousness. But it is safe to say that Lucy Moss’ staging is as self-aware as it can possibly be. Moss, riding on the global success “Six”, brilliantly uses the opportunity to satirise pretty much every stereotype possible. Nobody is safe. But what is extraordinary under her direction is the sheer sense of fun she brings to the production.

“Six” alumni Courtney Bowman commands the stage as the central character, Elle. Heartbroken after being dumped by her boyfriend Warner (Alistair Toovey) for not being serious enough, she decides she can win him back by showing she can achieve the same ambitions in the legal profession as him. In a plot line that loses touch with any form of credibility, she is accepted into the law school, rises high against odds and prejudices and eventually surpasses Warner. Along the way, everybody is put in their place, including misogynist law professors, jealous perjurers, closet gays. In fact, the characters who come out on top are the underdogs. The seemingly vacuous who ultimately reveal more depth than those who mock them.

Despite being hindered by a predominantly unmemorable score, the show still wins us over with its anergy and infectious comedy. And a couple of musical delights. The wit of O’Keefe and Benjamin’s lyrics shine through in particular during “Serious”, “Blood in the Water” and “Gay or European” which is surely the highlight of the night. It is miraculous how the words are sung so clearly with tongues so firmly set in the cheek. Homophobia, jingoism, and a whole host of other ‘isms’ are shot to the ground in a joyous few minutes of musical theatre snap, crackle and pop. Act Two opener, “Whipped Into Shape” showcases Ellen Kane’s slick choreography, pushing the all singing, all dancing ensemble to the limit.

“Legally Blonde” retains its comedy and loses none of its subversiveness in this brash and thoroughly camp production at Regents Open Air Theatre. It is a joy ride, although it does sometimes feel like you’re riding on a bus full of teenagers. Whilst there is little room for subtlety against the backbeat and spectacle, the current MT trend to introduce a Disney, cartoon-like, nasal shrillness to the delivery does grate over a couple of hours. But it’s worth it to reach the happy ending, buoyed up by the feel-good sensations that bounce the evening along.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Legally Blonde

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 2nd July

 

Last show reviewed at this venue:
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2021

 

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Act & Terminal 3 -4 Stars

Terminal

Act & Terminal 3

Print Room at the Coronet

Reviewed – 5th June 2018

★★★★

“‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points”

 

Lars Norén is celebrated by many as Sweden’s greatest living writer, and the Print Room at the Coronet stages a double bill of his two shorter plays, ‘Act’ and ‘Terminal 3’, translated by Marita Lindholm Gochman.

‘Act’ is about the relationship between State and terrorist. Originally set in 1970s post-war Germany, the play is based around the incarceration of Ulrike Meinhof, but director Anthony Neilson has removed these references, and instead places the play in a dystopian future America, following a second civil war, complete with a Texan physician brilliantly embodied by the enigmatic Barnaby Power. Whilst this is a good idea in practice, the only reference we have for this is visual, and the reality of this is a lack of clarity that leaves the audience in a continual and unresolved quest for context. A competently done piece fuelled by Power’s performance in particular, it has promise, but due to its lack of clear placement, it seems to float, making the moments of discomfort easier to disengage with, and the overall impact severely lessened.

‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points. Fog steams out over the audience, drowning us momentarily. Two couples wait. She is waiting to give birth, He at her side, whether she wants him there or not. Woman and Man wait to identify a body. Birth and death are directly aligned, Prosecco and flowers are proffered against a background of sobs. All four actors excel, distinct in their characterisations but equally adept in creating a coherent whole, not a weak link among them. Moving and disturbing, but laced with a desperately dark humour, the beauty and skill of Norén’s writing shines through across both pieces, but particularly in this latter one.

The design by Laura Hopkins across both pieces is consistently fantastic. The stage of ‘Act’ is a busy one on the periphery, bulk packages of Marlborough cigarettes and Coca Cola cans, a running machine, a mattress, a camping chair made out of a faded American flag. The central stage is bare apart from a single chair, hemmed in by lights – “there’s never any darkness,” M says of her cell. ‘Terminal 3’ splits the stage in two, one corner filled with flowers, the opposite corner with candles. The stage is divided by a semi-transparent screen, that turns as the space changes. Here, Nigel Edwards’ lighting design really comes into its own, unafraid to leave us in darkness, playing with shadows, lights that throb and stutter, a truly creative design that allows the space and the atmosphere to be reinvented over and over.

Seeing the plays alongside each other creates a lovely opportunity to directly compare the works and to begin to acknowledge themes in Norén’s work and way of thinking.

This is a double bill as it should be: beautifully written, beautifully designed and fantastically performed.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Tristram Kenton

 


Act & Terminal 3

Print Room at the Coronet until 30th June

 

Related
Previously reviewed at this venue
The Comet | ★★★★ | March 2018

 

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