Tag Archives: Mayou Trikerioti

LOVE GODDESS

Love Goddess, the Rita Hayworth Musical

★★

Cockpit Theatre

LOVE GODDESS, THE RITA HAYWORTH MUSICAL at the Cockpit Theatre

★★

LOVE GODDESS

“Logan Medland’s score keeps the show afloat too, with a song list that could have been plucked straight from the era.”

 

Margarita Carmen Cansino, born in Brooklyn in 1918, would come to be worshipped as the sex symbol Rita Hayworth. The ‘femme fatale’ star of films such as “Gilda”, “Only Angels Have Wings” and “The Strawberry Blonde”, she was the top pin up girl for GIs during World War II, and was coined ‘The Love Goddess’ by the press. Achieving fame in the 1940s she went on to make over sixty films over the next four decades.

Very few people, however, recognised the trauma that lay beneath her glitzy persona. What happened to the child that was Margarita would scar Rita forever. Orson Wells, her second husband, was one of the few that got close enough to observe: “All her life was pain”. Hayworth’s story is rich pickings for a musical; as it unfolds around the extraordinary figures in her life. The husbands, the parents and the co-stars, the reporters who helped and hindered her, and the moguls who made her and broke her.

“Love Goddess – The Rita Hayworth Musical” is the creation of Almog Pail, who wrote the book (with Stephen Garvey) and plays Hayworth. Originally a one-woman cabaret show entitled “Me, Myself and Rita” it has, according to the pr copy, ‘evolved into a full-scale musical’. However, this production hasn’t scaled the fullness. The ambition is undoubtedly there, and we do get a very fine picture of the blueprint. The story is presented through the fragmented mind of Hayworth during the final chapters of her life, as she interacts with memories, ghosts, lovers and her younger self. On the page it’s a gorgeous concept, on the stage it somehow fails to ignite. Too many issues are underexplored. Hayworth’s Alzheimer’s disease, which contributed to her early death and hugely drew attention (not to mention funding and research) to the condition, gets little more than a token mention.

Although she has the required passion and ambition, Pail lacks the gravitas – and the voice – to depict Hayworth with the credibility needed. She is surrounded by a fine ensemble who between them cover the roster of every significant player in Hayworth’s life. An impressive troupe, the shining star of which is Imogen Kingsley-Smith as the young Rita, whose effervescent presence and talent lifts the show each time she acts, dances or sings her way across the stage.

Logan Medland’s score keeps the show afloat too, with a song list that could have been plucked straight from the era. Latin rhythms and tangos mingle with smoky, jazzy numbers and that ol razzle dazzle – ‘The Five Men I Married’ being a standout number, recalling Chicago’s ‘Cell Block Tango’. Again, though, the sound sometimes falls flat, and the richness of the orchestration and ensemble arrangement required is left to the imagination. This show is longing for someone to come along and splash some colour between the brushed outlines. We have a glimpse of what this could be. Most of us know something of Hayworth’s story. For those who don’t, the piece will shed enough light, and will do so with clever staging and imaginative use of chronology. It shouldn’t shy away from the fact that there isn’t necessarily a happy ending. It has enough, particularly in the score, to both celebrate and elevate the melancholy. But not quite enough yet to really move us.

 

Reviewed on 20th November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Roswitha Chesher

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

L’Egisto | ★★★ | June 2021
999 | ★★★ | November 2022
The Return | ★★★ | November 2022

 

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When We Dead Awaken

When We Dead Awaken

★★★★

The Coronet Theatre

 When We Dead Awaken

When We Dead Awaken

The Coronet Theatre

Reviewed – 5th March 2022

★★★★

 

“Bang-Hansen’s elegant direction is right at home in the Coronet’s beautifully restored interiors”

 

When We Dead Awaken is Ibsen’s last play, and the master was very well aware of that as he was writing it. In consequence, it has a distinctly different tone to his earlier, better known works such as An Enemy of the People, Hedda Gabler, and A Doll House, to name just a few. The language in When We Dead Awaken shifts between the lyrical and the brutal. The play is haunting, and also elusive in its final, elegiac notes. Added to all that is the chance to see the play acted (mostly) in Norwegian, performed by (mostly) Norwegian actors. These are just some of the features that make this production, by The Norwegian Ibsen Company with the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill, a highlight of the still evolving 2022 theatre season in London.

When We Dead Awaken begins slowly, but (spoiler alert) like the avalanche which makes its appearance at the end of the play, its gathering power draws you in and holds you fast, even in the knowledge of certain obliteration. And as always in Ibsen’s plays, the endings are not up for sunny reinterpretations. Viewed in this way, the confrontations between an aging artist, Arnold Rubek (Øystein Røger), his young wife Maia (Andrea Bræin Hovig), and his muse, Irene (Ragnhild Margrethe Gudbrandsen) take on a mythic quality as they struggle to decide what is more important. The life of an artist? The work of art itself? Is it worth giving up a chance of family and children to pursue your art? What happens if you become successful, but still feel something lacking in both art and life? What happens if success feels like death? Into this mix of conflicting situations, we can be pretty sure, Ibsen is pouring the accumulated frustrations of his own life as an artist. But there’s always at least one wild card in play in Ibsen’s dramas, and this arrives in the form of a bear hunter named Ulfhejm (James Browne). It’s Ulfhejm who separates the unhappy couple. It’s the crude and brutal hunter who entices Maia away from her husband, and, ironically, gives the artist one last chance to reconnect with his muse, Irene. And it is Ulfhjem who entices them all up the mountainside where revelations and endings come together in surprising, but somehow appropriate ways.

Kjetil Bang-Hansen’s elegant direction is right at home in the Coronet’s beautifully restored interiors and its surprisingly spacious stage. His actors move with assurance around a set design by Mayou Trikerioti that evokes fin de siécle decay —the wreckage of an excessive past spilling out on stage where no one can ignore it any longer. With some deft sound design and music by Peter Gregson, it’s easy to get drawn into a space where resort hotels become remote mountainsides in a subtle change of lights (Amy Mae.) Special mention should also be made of the ease with which the Norwegian actors manage this difficult play in two languages. Listening to a play in a language one doesn’t know is always revealing. In this production of When We Dead Awaken, Norwegian sounds clipped and precise. The lyrical struggles a bit, but then it should. And every so often the unfamiliar becomes familiar again as English words peek through the Norwegian in odd pronounciations, reminding us that modern English retains more than a few Norwegian words. Andrea Bræin Hovig and Øystein Røger establish a palpable sense of tension in their scenes in Norwegian together, which contrast nicely with the scenes in English when Irish actor James Browne is on the stage. The subtitles, when necessary, are discreetly projected onto a curtain upstage.

The main disappointment of this production is — you guessed it — the avalanche. But it is hard to argue with Kjetil Bang-Hansen’s pragmatic choice to have the avalanche always on stage, in a sense, in Mayou Trikerioti’s set design. So there is no dramatic movement on stage at the end of the play. The actors simply narrate the final moments. On the whole, this production of When We Dead Awaken shows itself up to the challenge of Ibsen’s last drama. It cleverly avoids falling into the traps that Ibsen has set for the overconfident theatre maker.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Tristram Kenton

 


When We Dead Awaken

The Coronet Theatre until 2nd April

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge | ★★★★ | November 2021

 

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