Tag Archives: Leicester Square Theatre

Musik

Musik

★★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

Musik

Musik

 Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 11th February 2020

★★★★

 

“Barber’s delivery is as fantastic as the words are fantastical.”

 

You’re not long into “Musik” before you realise that this isn’t really a musical at all. Although it features six original songs penned by the Pet Shop Boys, the focus is unquestionably on Jonathan Harvey’s wonderfully outrageous script and the sheer personality that bursts forth from Frances Barber’s magnificent performance.

Barber plays Billie Trix, a retired rock icon and actress in this sequel to ‘Closer To Heaven’ which premiered nearly twenty years ago just around the corner at the Arts Theatre to somewhat mixed reviews. Trix was a minor character but even then, Barber made her the star of the production, so it seems inevitable that she be given her own show. And as she strides through the auditorium up to the stage, she makes no bones about this being her show. Barber owns the character outright, and to some extent the script, allowing herself some ad hoc ad libs. Madonna’s cancelled gig at the Palladium is the first target of Billie Trix’s acerbic banter.

It’s a kind of cradle to grave narration. Although, despite her sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll life of excess, Trix is determined to keep her unavoidable destination at arm’s length. She was born a ‘mongrel’, her own mother’s one regret, but rises above this with the narcissist’s belief against all odds that she is a ‘gift to the world’. We never know for sure how much she believes her own fantasy, but we are spellbound by her anecdotal wizardry. The ushers will surely have their work cut out after the show, sweeping up the countless names she has dropped. She’s been there, done that and has the emotional scars to prove it. Andy Warhol stole her Campbells’ Soup Tins idea. Madonna stole her image; even Trump stole her virginity (though he was then a skinny lad called Otto). We want to believe it all as she takes us on her journey from post-war Berlin to the rock arenas of the world, via Vietnam and a Soho phone box. She has shared moments with them all – the Beatles, Lou Reid, Nico, Dalí, Damien Hirst, Eminem, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frank Zappa…

Trix was at the forefront of each revolution in pop culture. Brecht’s original ‘Mother Courage’, a star of the New York art-house film scene, the pioneer of Disco; the darling of the Surrealists and the scourge of the Young British Artists. Trix looks back on her fantastical life with bitterness but in Barber’s hands the only real rage we witness is that of laughter. Barber’s delivery is as fantastic as the words are fantastical. The further Billie Trix falls into obscurity the higher Frances Barber rises. You can see the sparks fly as she hones Harvey’s already razor-sharp script.

If anything, the music softens the punch. Trix showers us with a bewildering cascade of anecdotes and one-liners, which make the musical interludes feel a bit like a commercial break. The synth-pop sound does little to reference the text, although the lyrics do shine through thanks to Barber’s crackling voice. Unlike Trix, Barber knows her limitations and it is this loveable self-deprecation that allows us to love such an unloveable, foul-mouthed character.

“Someone make it stop!” Trix shouts out at one point. A vain exclamation as Barber is unstoppable. Trix may be washed up, but Barber is on the crest of a wave with this role.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner

 


Musik

Leicester Square Theatre until 1st March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018
Stick Man | ★★★½ | October 2018
Sh!t-Faced Showtime: Oliver With A Twist | ★★ | March 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet | ★★★ | June 2019
Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol | ★★★★★ | November 2019
Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass | ★★★★ | December 2019

 

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Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

★★★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

A Pissedmas Carol

Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 28th November 2019

★★★★★

 

“bountiful instances of quick-witted, gleeful silliness”

 

Audiences are a voyeuristic bunch – from found-footage horror films to The Play That Goes Wrong, there is a proven appetite for watching things where what’s being shown feels like it shouldn’t be seen. So it’s no surprise that Magnificent Bastard Productions have struck gold with their format in which they get one of their actors drunk and have to roll with whatever punches they throw during the show. They’ve found success with both Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare and Sh*t-Faced Showtime previously, and that can now be counted as a triumvirate of triumphs with their new festive show, A Pissedmas Carol.

A Pissedmas Carol follows the plot of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol with a cast of five and a script by Lewis Ironside. Or it intends to follow the plot, anyway, although the actor who’d got through two beers, a shot of vegan Baileys, and two thirds of a bottle of Captain Morgans over the course of four hours preceding the show lobbed most of the script out the window. The rules set out by the show’s MC (who incidentally, was Charles Dickens – played with adorable joviality by Will Seaward) dictate that whatever that actor chooses to do, the others must improvise around it. With a group of exceptional improvisers such as this, such a format leads to boundless hilarity. Once this performance’s drunk actor Daniel Quirke chooses to lick a castmate’s nose as a greeting, it becomes a running gag throughout the show, and when Quirke changes the ending of the story on the fly by putting Scrooge in a coma for forty years, the change is embraced fully by the other actors. The fundamental rule of improv – always say yes – is taken very seriously, which results in bountiful instances of quick-witted, gleeful silliness.

The improv and alcohol-heavy nature of the show could very easily lead to wearisome indulgence in the performances, but thankfully there is a keen awareness from the cast, as well as clear measures to ensure the experience is always firmly centred around audience enjoyment – the MC will sometimes usher things along, or Charlotte Brooke’s piano accompaniment will lead the scenes forward. The audience are also invited to deepen the chaos, as select members are able to put another drink in the inebriated actor’s hand when they so wish. By the end of the show, Quirke had got through a further three beers, which kept the voyeuristic excitement ramping up.

As mentioned, the performances are roundly excellent, and the fun that these actors are clearly having on stage with each other permeates through to the audience. They capitalise on every unexpected comic opportunity, with James Murfitt as Scrooge and Katy Baker (who also directed) as the Ghost of Christmas Past standing out in a scene where – thanks to Quirke’s machinations – their rendition of ‘Walking in the Air’ as they flew to the past brought on reams of laughter. That’s not the only song either – A Pissedmas Carol features a host of Christmas classics, all fantastically sung, from Issy Wroe-Wright’s scene-stealing ‘Last Christmas’ to the gorgeous harmonies in ‘Fairytale of New York’.

A Pissedmas Carol has carved out a format that sets it apart from any other Christmas show, yet also puts it head and shoulders above them. Forget panto – this is the most fun you’re going to have in a theatre this festive season.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

Leicester Square Theatre until 5th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder, She Didn’t Write | ★★★ | February 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018
Stick Man | ★★★½ | October 2018
Sh!t-Faced Showtime: Oliver With A Twist | ★★ | March 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet | ★★★ | June 2019

 

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