“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
“Bucchino’s songs embrace the full spectrum of contemporary urban living with sensitivity and wit”
It’s Only Life, John Bucchino and Daisy Prince’s musical revue of twenty-three heart-breaking and hilarious songs, is already a well-known enterprise in the world of American musical theatre. And rightly so: Bucchino’s songs embrace the full spectrum of contemporary urban living with sensitivity and wit. Laid side by side, the songs dip, twist and soar, telling a collective story of stasis, desire, love, heartbreak and redemption.
The ensemble of five performers master these songs beautifully. Recent graduates Sammy Graham and Will Carey keep their cool amongst the more experienced performers Jennifer Harding, Noel Sullivan and Jordan Shaw, and, apart from some lyrics getting lost at the beginning, the vocals are flawless. Harding exudes pathos narrating the crossing paths of two lovers in ‘Sweet Dreams’, and Carey memorably toys with his audience in the hilarious ‘On My Bedside Table’, gritting his teeth trying to prove he is not at all phased by “the fact that you and I are definitely through”. ‘Grateful’ bookends the piece and allows Sullivan a moment to show off his vocal range and power. It’s refreshing that these performers can show restraint when it’s needed. This is a show about the songs and the story, not ego.
Justin Williams’ design stands out from the off. Cleverly using pastel blues, pinks, greens and oranges on a simple white background, Williams has created a space where props are close to hand and levels are used to maximum effect. Our stories can move from downtown bars to lonely bedrooms with little effort and give the songs a crucial context. Tania Azevedo’s direction too, is unflashy and in full service to the symphony of stories. No movement feels unnecessary, and the precision of the cast shows a wide variety of environments that the space itself would never allow.
The message of It’s Only Life is hardly original, but kindly reminds us to embrace the things we fear. These songs act as stepping stones, from risk to risk, and we can only learn as we go how best to get to the other side. Ultimately, it’s a redemptive and moving revue. I saw audience members crying, holding hands, laughing out loud. The ensemble, representing a sexually diverse Britain, behave familiarly with their audience as if to say: “These are our stories, but they’re yours too”. And that is where It’s Only Life really succeeds. Anyone can find a story here, or a moment, to relate to.
It’s Only Life is an unforgettably enjoyable experience that comes highly recommended. Great songs, great vocals, great emotions … what’s not to love?