“each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill”
Sex, drugs, sex, psychedelic tabs, more sex and a rather peculiar UV Scene. Hair bounces into Brighton as part of its 50th anniversary tour.
Picture this, itʼs 1967 and a group of hippie youngsters are longing to change the world in which they find themselves. They question every aspect of authority and unite through protest and song, under the gloomy shadow of the Vietnam War.
The story of Hair jumps so sporadically from one character and story to another which confuses, leaving us little to no time to really form an emotional connection with each character and the threadbare storyline.
The cast is laden with TV celebrities. X-Factor Duo Jake Quickenden (modelling a rather revealing thong throughout) and Marcus Collins (as Hud) are both interesting talents. Both do well throughout but are underserved by the script and direction from Jonathan O’Boyle. Quickendenʼs energetic conversations with the audience are infectious and makes his Berger completely loveable; someone youʼd take home to your mum.
Vocally, Aiesha Pease, playing Dionne, and Daisy Wood-Davis, as Shelia, are simply stunning, both commanding the stage with pitch-perfect clarity. However beautiful harmonies and exceptional examples of physical theatre canʼt forgive the poor diction from most of the cast throughout the sub-par plot.
I have one big gripe about this production as a whole and thatʼs how it fairs in the current political climate. Although Hair tries all the tricks to appeal to our packed to the rafters Brighton audience but the lack of ‘shockingʼ content merely makes it a well-produced museum piece. With the director’s choice of implementing Trump speeches at the beginning, the show manages to say nothing new whilst remaining some-what relevant but this is cheap and easy. If you had put Erdogan or Putin speeches in place of Trump, or performed the show in Russia or Brunei for example, where homosexuality and nudity on stage is still illegal, then the impact would be colossal.
Putting the incoherent story aside, Hair, put simply, is a spectacle and an event. Once intended to shock and change laws, Hair unintentionally falls flat in its flamboyant charm. Although each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill, energy and wit the seemingly endless number of songs forces us to yearn for more of the thin narrative.
Reviewed by Nathan Collins
Photography by Johan Persson
Theatre Royal Brighton until 13th July then UK tour continues
“the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed”
The stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel of Paula Hawkin’s smash-hit novel, The Girl on The Train, screeches into Brighton prior to transferring to the West End. It puts Rachel Watson, played by Samantha Womack, as an unemployed alcoholic who spies into her ex husband Tom’s home from the train and soon finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation. The victim? Her ex-husband’s mistress, Megan.
Rachel, who yearns for a different life is bitterly grieving for the one she has now lost. The plot is seemingly plucked from thin air as out of the blue, ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson Smith) comes knocking at the door of her cluttered and untidy flat. He is investigating whether she had any involvement in the murder which happened on the evening she turned up at his house, berating his new wife Anna (Lowenna Melrose).
With crime thriller interest at an all time high with smash-hit TV shows like Broadchurch and Line of Duty, the production ultimately lacks genuine research and integrity which is a shame. The inspector tasked with the case incoherently deals with Rachel as a potential suspect and it doesn’t sit well. DI Gaskell, played rather too melodramatically by John Dougall, gives away confidential information and access to murder scenes which confuses. The relationship between suspect and police could be more intelligent, the psychological analysis of interrogation could have been a strong point but again, the poor writing fails miserably in it’s feeble attempt at being somewhat mildly realistic and poetic.
Director Anthony Banks could do more to raise the stakes within each scene, we are watching a murder investigation and so called ‘psychological thriller’ but yet I do not believe the majority of the performances or staging. The clunky transitions between scenes see Womack walk into a focused light for ten seconds or so with no real purpose except for masking a scene change and ultimately drops the rare bit of energy that is created in the scene before. Womack has a big task in carrying The Girl On The Train as Rachel is centre of every scene but unlike in the novel and film, Rachel lacks real character depth and likeability. I feel for Womack as I know she has the ability to carry a good script, but she is desperately underserved by the writers but supported by the rest of the cast (Oliver Farnworth, Naeem Hayat, Matt Concannon and Phillipa Flynn). One redeeming performance is Kirsty Oswald as Megan, her brief monologues are complex and performed with a real level of emotion and truth.
The Girl On The Train is a clumsy and poorly directed adaptation of a story which is somewhat of a literature phenomenon. Despite it’s stunning design by James Cotterill and admirable ambition, the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed.
Reviewed by Nathan Collins
Photography by Manuel Harlan
The Girl on the Train
Theatre Royal Brighton until 22nd June then UK tour continues