Tag Archives: Tamara Saringer

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

★★★★

Royal & Derngate

Gin Craze

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 21st July 2021

★★

 

“The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping”

 

This new musical – book and lyrics by April de Angelis, music and lyrics by Lucy Rivers – brings to life William Hogarth’s shocking 1751 etching ‘Gin Lane’ portraying grotesque caricatures of people suffering from the Gin Craze that was rife in the early part of the eighteenth century. As the curtain rises, we meet a number of these ladies under the influence who sing, dance, and extol the virtues of their favourite tipple. A pawn broker’s sign hangs close to the stage, the same sign as in Hogarth’s print.

The set (designed by Hayley Grindle) is built on two levels and reinforces a view of the class divide with the wealthy Fielding family and a semi-sozzled Queen Caroline appearing on the upper level whilst the gin ladies are firmly rooted on the ground and at the bottom of society. Through the shadows of wooden beams and hanging ropes, we can see various musical instruments: harpsichord, violin, cello, double bass, guitar, timpani. Each member of the eight strong ensemble takes their turn at becoming the band. Plus the ever-present MD Tamara Saringer at the keys.

For much of the time we could describe this as a folk musical. The singing is gentle and refined, the lyrics ballad-like in form, and the duets between the two main leads contain excellent close folk harmonies. The arrangement of the songs is most striking particularly those making use of violin and cello underlay.

The energy of the full ensemble numbers has the audience clapping and whooping. “Gin Dive” is the standout song that reappears close to the end in a poignant unaccompanied close harmony version. “It’s the Law” becomes a good old cockney knees-up with comedy trombone. Many of the scenes can be described as bawdy – and are especially enjoyed because of that – at times they are out-and-out plain rude.

The plot – or the message of the show, perhaps – is summed up with the song title, “What does a woman have to do to get a better life?”. We follow the journey of Mary (Aruhan Galieva) who whilst working as a servant is knocked up by the visiting priest, kicked out into the street, tricked into giving away her baby, and narrowly avoids rape and prostitution by setting up as a gin hawker. We learn that life for a woman is not a bed of roses. But then, Mary befriends Lydia (Paksie Vernon), her saving grace.

Director Michael Oakley produces the most spirited scenes when the gin women appear on stage together. If their individual characters do appear on the caricature side of sincere then we can allow that they may have been first based upon a cartoon. But, in the midst of tragedy, despite the best efforts of this hard-working cast, there is little tension to be felt and we remain unmoved. Particularly, much of the momentum is lost after the interval as attention turns away from the rumbustious Gin Lane into the genteel home of the foppish Henry Fielding (Alex Mugnaioni) and his do-gooder sister Sarah (Rachel Winters).

April de Angelis and Lucy Rivers have created a most fascinating feminist – and musical – response to an interesting period of English history which reflects well on Hogarth’s masterpiece that initially inspired the idea.

 

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

 

Gin Craze!

Royal and Derngate Theatre  until 31st July

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021

 

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The Fabulist Fox Sister

The Fabulist Fox Sister

★★★★

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

The Fabulist Fox Sister

The Fabulist Fox Sister

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th December 2020

★★★★

 

“a staggering performance and an excellent production”

 

If there’s one thing that the past nine months have proven, it’s that online theatre is hard. There’s an energy that doesn’t seem to translate, the lack of audience response feels like a detraction, and you’re beholden to sub-film set cinematography. The Fabulist Fox Sister does something quite special though: in many ways it feels like rather than adapting theatre to an online format, it’s crafting something entirely new. Mostly, it does it exceptionally well.

That’s been the mission statement for director and producer Adam Lenson since lockdown descended; to successfully transpose the theatrical experience into a digital format – and this musical pulls it off with aplomb. The show is livestreamed from the Southwark Playhouse so no spontaneity is lost, the musicians play live and in situ with the actor, and the use of multiple camera angles and shots start to blur the lines between the cinematic and theatrical.

Amidst the flames of this burgeoning new form is the perfect story for it: that of Kate Fox, the ‘mother of all mediums’ who more or less birthed spiritualism, popularising seances with her sisters Leah and Margaret (who in the show form the two-piece keys and percussion band). Framed as Kate’s retirement show, she takes us through the lies, loves, and losses of her life through a stellar performance from Michael Conley. The text is rich with quips, black comedy, and smart callbacks that Conley knows exactly how to work every syllable of – though it’s somewhat expected since he also wrote the book and lyrics. Luke Bateman’s music largely keeps pace, weaving a seamless journey between speech and song, and giving a campy cabaret-style pulse to the show. A couple of songs sound a little too familiar to each other musically but it’s by no means going to ruin your night.

The only thing that did break the immersion was the use of laughter and applause, which I believe came from the crew in the theatre but may well have been canned. Huge belly laughs sounded for some jokes where most received nothing; similarly around three songs received applause at the end. It was unclear if this was trying to signify something and the inconsistency ultimately distracted. If intentional, it was a strange directorial choice from Lenson, who otherwise facilitated a staggering performance and an excellent production overall.

What was most clear was the respect that The Fabulist Fox Sister displayed for the new form that it occupied – it didn’t feel resentful or uncomfortable, but confident and innovative. It bodes very well for the show’s companion piece Public Domain which is livestreaming next week, and for the future of live digital theatre as a whole.

 

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Jane Hobson

 


The Fabulist Fox Sister

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

 

Recently reviewed by Ethan:
Far Away | ★★½ | Donmar Warehouse | February 2020
Republic | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Ryan Lane Will Be There Now In A Minute | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Big | | Network Theatre | March 2020
Stages | ★★★½ | Network Theatre | March 2020
Songs For A New World | ★★★ | Online | July 2020
Entrée | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Rose | ★★ | Online | September 2020
Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020
People Show 138: Last Day | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews